Tuesday, May 21, 2013
On any given day, our girls are hoping and expecting that we will be their heroes, superheroes even. By definition, hero means protector or defender -- two words that I believe are synonymous with parent.
My husband and I will fiercely protect and defend our girls for the rest of our lives. We are definitely up to the job, but even heroes need a little help.
Like many parents, I try to protect my girls from harmful toxins by reading product labels. I only wish it were that easy.
I do my best to scrutinize what comes in our home, goes on their bodies, or becomes part of our meals.
Over the past several months, however, I've realized that when it comes to choosing toys, shampoos and other everyday products, my best simply isn't good enough.
In order for me to be the hero my children deserve, I need a hero, too. I need Sen. Olympia Snowe and Sen. Susan Collins to help me do something about the dangerous chemicals that are putting us all at risk by co-sponsoring and voting for the Safe Chemicals Act of 2011.
Chemicals show up in our household products in many forms. They are in plastics, they coat our frying pans, they are sprayed on our furniture, and they are used in our skin care products. The health effects can include cancer, infertility, diabetes, and learning disabilities -- all expensive and debilitating diseases that no parent wants their child to experience.
A few years ago, I heard that bisphenol-A (BPA) was a hormone-disrupting chemical and that it was in my daughter's sippy cups. We quickly said goodbye to those cups.
But only recently did I hear that BPA also is used in the lining of the canned food we eat -- and I didn't hear it from the canned bean or chemical companies. They are not required to disclose that information.
So sometimes I think I am making a healthy food choice and protecting my daughters from a toxic chemical, when in reality I am not.
Parents and businesses are left in the dark about most chemicals used in consumer products, and about which chemicals are dangerous or safe. It is shocking to me that chemical companies do not have to test new chemicals before putting them on the market.
This flies in the face of common sense and puts us all at risk. More than 80,000 chemicals are currently in use, but only 200 are tested for health and safety threats under federal law.
This is an abysmal record of inaction when we know thousands of chemicals are on state and international watch lists.
Maine has been a leader in passing laws designed to protect children from toxic chemicals and lower health costs for everyone. The effort has revealed many heroes from every corner of Maine, including parents, doctors, nurses, business owners and state legislators from both sides of the aisle.
But we can't do it alone. We need heroes in the U.S. Senate.
The federal system is broken, but Snowe and Collins can help by supporting the Safe Chemicals Act of 2011. This common-sense reform would require chemical companies to demonstrate the safety of their products using the best available science. It would create market incentives for safer alternatives and it would arm parents like me with the best information possible about chemicals in products my children use every day.
Parents across Maine need our senators to become leaders in this fight to make sure every child has a home that is free from toxic chemicals.
If capturing a bat can elevate one to hero status, imagine what one can become from fighting to protect children's health and defending their right to grow up as healthy as they can be.
Megan Rice is a mother of two from the town of China.