The group is rallying in support of Senator Frank Lautenberg?s (D-NJ) Safe Chemicals Act, a bill to overhaul antiquated laws governing toxic chemicalsl. Specifically the Act would:
Require EPA to identify and restrict the "worst of the worst" chemicals, those that persist and build up in the food chain;
Require basic health and safety information for all chemicals as a condition for entering or remaining on the market;
Reduce the burden of toxic chemical exposures on people of color and low-income and indigenous communities;
Upgrade scientific methods for testing and evaluating chemicals to reflect best practices called for by the National Academy of Sciences; and
Generally provide EPA with the tools and resources it needs to identify and address chemicals posing health and environmental concerns.
Recently the Chicago Tribune ran an investigation of deceptive tactics that have fueled the rise of toxic flame retardants in American homes, a series recently cited by Illinois Democratic Senator Dick Durban as to why the Safe Chemicals Act should be passed.
The bill has been stalled for years in the Senate, however.
As the Tribune reported, under the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act, the burden is on the EPA to prove chemicals are dangerous, rather than on companies to prove they are safe. The law requires manufacturers to submit safety data only if they have it.
Marybeth Palmigiano with Physicians for Social Responsibility says she's concerned about the increases in chronic diseases, birth defects and cancers over the past few decades. She acknowledges that some of these illnesses have genetic components, "but there's also a huge environmental component and the only thing we can actually do anything about is the environmental component."
When asked why she thinks the Safe Chemicals Act has been stalled in Congress, Palmigiano said the only thing that comes to mind is that business interests are fighting against it.
"The chemical lobby is a lot bigger than the moms who are here today. You hate to say that, but that's the only thing I can think of."