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I could hardly tear my oldest daughter away from the solar system exhibit when we last visited a popular science center. Not only were the planets perfectly suspended and illuminated to awe visitors, but the interactive touch screens drew kids in to learn fun facts and cool concepts.
The shiny metal scale challenged our family to step on and learn our weight in various parts of the solar system. That part is fun for kids — not so fun for moms. In my effort to be an involved parent, I learned that I’m much happier with what the scale says I would weigh on Mars than here on planet Earth. The facts bear out why gravity is what it is on our planet; and instead of questioning the science that determines my weight, I might as well stick to my fitness plan.
As a parent, I’m pleased to have a child so enthusiastic about science that she doesn’t want to leave the solar system exhibit. Back at home, I’ll keep nurturing her healthy appetite for scientific discovery. As a parent, I’m also disappointed in the fuzzy science that’s being used to confuse a critically important issue of our time. It seems the chemical industry, innovative and important as it is, wants parents to believe its fuzzy approach to the science of chemical safety. It has launched a warm, fuzzy, confusing website called Kids plus Chemical Safety to allay any concerns we might have.
The chemical industry itself, the same one that brought us Agent Orange and DDT, wants us to trust its website (thinly veiled as a nonprofit effort) with cute pictures of kids to alert us of dangers and let us know when we can relax. Its video feature is especially insulting, as a voiceover with a British accent tells us about a bottle of bleach, “There’s always the possibility of someone doing something stupid with it,” and reminding us that stepping off a tall building would be considered a “risk,” while standing on the edge is merely a “hazard.” The website sends the message that as parents, if we’re concerned about chemical safety, we’re probably too stupid to understand the science, and we might as well count on the folks who make and profit from the stuff to decide what’s good for our kids.
This is the industry that has been lobbying hard against the Safe Chemicals Act that would reform United States standards so chemicals would have to be proven safe before they go into consumer products. This sneaky website has launched at a time when industry realizes you have more power than ever as a parent to be an informed consumer and demand a higher standard for safety. Can you believe that businesses often make a safer version of their products for other countries with higher standards, while they continue to peddle the more toxic version to us? Did you know toxic ingredients can be excluded from product labels if they’re considered trade secrets? Can you believe US lawmakers and public safety officials let them get away with it?
Serious, independent, respected scientists and consumer groups have been producing volumes of peer-reviewed science that show real concerns about substances that could be endangering our health and environment, even at very low levels. This is the serious science, not the fuzzy science that lets industry self-regulate to get government approval for things not tested for long-term safety.
Yes, the law of gravity is real. And so is the science that shows endocrine disruption from things that shouldn’t be in our home environments put our daughters at risk for early puberty and life-threatening diseases like cancer. After you’ve had a good laugh perusing that fuzzy industry site, I hope you can devote a few minutes to hear what this grandmother and world-renowned scientist is asking the President to do about chemicals in our environment. A link to her recent talk is below:
Then, join the voices calling for real reform via the Safe Chemicals Act. Bookmark the trustworthy Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families website that is powered by a genuine grassroots coalition of hundreds of environmental, parenting, medical and consumer groups and tell ten more friends about this important movement today.
(This article first ran on the Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families website.)