As one of many mothers converging on Washington, DC this spring in the National Stroller Brigade for Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, I had the opportunity to meet the coalition’s National Campaign Director, Andy Igrejas. I wanted to be clear on how this nationwide effort is working on behalf of families like mine.
Igrejas was willing to answer any questions I had, just as accessible to a stay-at-home Tennessee mom like me as he is to the lawmakers filling the halls of Congress. On a day noticeable for its diversity of involvement from concerned people — many of them parents — from all walks of life, Igrejas responded to my question of whether the Safe Chemicals Act might be considered a special interest.
Igrejas answered by noting the wide swath of grassroots involvement, “One of the things that’s so great about today is that we have people who are conservatives, we have people who are liberals, we have small business owners, we have health professionals, we have steel workers. I mean, it really crosses the spectrum of people who are concerned. So it’s not just an environmental issue, it’s a health issue and one that unites people at the grassroots level.”
I asked Igrejas to help break down such an overwhelming topic as the Safe Chemicals Act in a way that applies to everyday lives. He offered the comparison of medicines to ordinary consumer products, noting that medicines go through a government-mandated safety testing process (imperfect as it may be) before they’re allowed to be sold. No such testing happens for the tens of thousands of chemicals that go into making consumer products, even though scientists are detecting those chemicals in household dust, water and even our blood. “It turns out a lot of these same chemicals act like drugs, they’re just drugs that we didn’t design purposefully to do something good in the body. Some of them are toxic and some of them are not toxic, but there’s no system to differentiate between those things.”
The particular concerns of parents involved in this grassroots movement come from the science concerning early exposure to toxic chemicals, for children and even unborn babies. Igrejas said, “There’s a lot of science saying exposure to these chemicals, especially early in life, is one of the key things that determines whether you get diseases later…there’s a lot of science suggesting concern around this and there’s no system for that science to go into.”
So, what’s a parent to do? I questioned whether one mother, father or grandparent’s call to Washington could really make a difference. “It’s never too late to get involved in the political process,” encouraged Igrejas, “It actually has more of an impact than people think.”