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Keeping Our Children Safe

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For most parents, a trip to the pharmacy shopping for baby products is a routine experience. And while we make choices on which products to buy for any number of reasons, we would never imagine any one of these products could be unsafe. We have faith that baby products are safe for our kids because our government wouldn't allow toxic chemicals in children's shampoos, pillows or toys.

But, the truth is, we are going on faith alone. When I arrived in the Senate I was shocked to learn that regulators have been prevented from testing all of the 70,000 chemicals found in everyday home products. In fact, due to a variety of obstacles, the Environmental Protection Agency has only tested 200 of them. As a mother and a legislator, I find this unacceptable. We must bring our nation's chemical safety laws into the 21st Century.

Here is a bit of history. Back in 1976, Congress passed the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), a law that was meant to give the EPA the tools to research and regulate chemicals found in everyday products from shampoos, to sippy cups, to shower curtains. Nearly 40 years later only 5 chemicals have been successfully regulated.

I have read too many studies and reports that have found toxic chemicals in everyday products. Since TSCA became law, we have seen an unacceptable rise in cases of childhood cancers, learning disabilities, birth defects, asthma, allergies, autism and infertility. Our children are being exposed to these toxic chemicals before they are even born. Umbilical cord blood samples show exposure to over 200 chemicals ranging from BPA, which is found in plastic bottles, flame retardants, which are used in TV's and furniture, and PCB's, a known-carcinogen that remains in our soil and water.

It is clear that TSCA has failed, and we need to fix it.

Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) has led the fight in the Senate by introducing the Safe Chemicals Act. This legislation would modernize our chemical safety laws, and end the 'innocent until proven guilty' approach to toxic chemical regulations by putting the burden for proving safety on manufacturers, where it belongs. I was proud to cosponsor this common sense piece of legislation and will continue to work with Senator Lautenberg to garner support for its passage in Congress.

Congress can't ignore the failure of this law to protect public health any longer. We must stand with the parents across the country who have joined together to demand better from their elected leaders. It's just not good enough for the federal government to sit on the sidelines while states are forced to fill the void and take matters into their own hands.

In my home state of New York, the state legislature passed critically needed reforms like protecting babies from the toxic chemical BPA in baby bottles and cancer-causing chemicals found in nursing pillows and baby carriers. In all, twenty-five states around the country have passed 80 chemical safety laws in the last nine years with overwhelming majorities and strong bipartisan support. I applaud this action at the state level, but we need a national policy that ensures chemicals and products are safe in every state and for every family.

Throughout our history, the United States has led the world in scientific innovation. It is time we continued that tradition by developing safer, more effective chemicals to use in our clothing, buildings and household products. Making safer chemicals will also help keep U.S. companies competitive in the global marketplace where consumers are demanding safer and greener products, while protecting the health and well being of our children and families.

I urge you to join with me, and contact your Senators and Representatives to tell them to support the Safe Chemicals Act so we can keep toxic chemicals out of our homes and away from our children. Our children and grandchildren are counting on us.