Friday, September 18, 2009

A Lesson in Hyannis

Today I embarked on my legislative education by attending a meeting at Congressman William Delahunt’s office in Hyannis regarding possible support of three upcoming initiatives, all related to toxic chemicals. Our band of seven activists met with Neva Flaherty, Cape/Islands representative for Health and Human Services, second from right, above. First Erin Boles (right, above), of the Massachusetts Breast Cancer Coalition, described her hope that Rep. Delahunt will support the BPA Act of 2009, sponsored by Sen. Feinstein and Rep. Markey, and now being used as an amendment as part of a food safety bill. (One regular reader sent me important info on BPA, which I will share in a later post.) Erin also told Ms. Flaherty safe cosmetics legislation is due imminently, giving the FDA the authority to regulate toxic chemicals in personal care products and phase out known/suspected carcinogens, mutagens, reproductive developmental toxins. She requested that Rep. Delahunt join lead sponsors Sen. Feinstein and Rep. Schakowski. Cindy Luppi, left, above, of Clean Water Now, then addressed reform of the Toxic Substances Control Act, untouched since 1976, and flawed since 76,000 chemicals were exempt. She asked that Rep. Delahunt become a co-sponsor of a strong bill, one that also prevents federal pre-emption of state law. The seasoned activists provided background, including the startling fact that the European Union has banned over 1100 toxic chemicals in personal care products. The number for the USA? Nine! Wellfleet’s Kristen Shantz expressed her outrage that decades have passed and nothing has been done to control the contents of so many household products. “I want to trust when I chose a product,” she exclaimed. Sue Phelan of Green Cape brought up the “Red Cross” study of umbilical cord blood, spearheaded by the Environmental Working Group. (This study revealed the presence of up to 287 chemicals in umbilical cord blood.) No one had used the term “body burden,” so I did, speaking, for the first time in such a setting.

Having lived in France for 25 years, I had never before attended a meeting like this one, and it was an eye-opener. Ms. Flaherty listened for an hour. She plans to digest the material and send a memo to a colleague in Delahunt's DC office.

For years William Delahunt has been a supporter of Silent Spring, which is trying to figure out why Barnstable County has one of the highest breast cancer rates in the country. I hope he will decide to play a leading role in this effort to limit exposure to toxic chemicals.

Today’s experience made me realize the massive amounts of time, effort, and energy involved in changing legislation. I also developed a greater appreciation of Erin Brockovich for having succeeded in her campaign against Pacific Gas & Electric with regard to contamination of drinking water by chromium!