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Felicia Willems's picture

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Olympic Hoop HussleLast week I joined with other Triangle families down at the North Carolina General Assembly for a “Toxic Free Kids Olympics” in the Children’s Garden. The purpose of the event was to highlight the need for legislation to get harmful chemicals out of the products we buy.

Moms and kids played games like the “Toxic Tub Toy Toss” and “Jumping through hoops to keep your family safe” relay, all in an effort to get legislators to recognize that we need their help. It really hit me while we were playing games how common toxic chemicals are in the products we buy every day. Common plastic tub toys were tossed with tongs from one container into another. In the “find the toxics” under a bucket game, it was surprising to see how many of them I had in my house. We saw common canned foods, a plastic football that’s similar to one my son plays with, and some plastic bowls just like some that I (formerly) used in my kitchen.

I’m going to admit it. Like so many other big, messy, complicated issues, just not thinking about the toxic chemicals that are in all of these items is something I used to do. It is so much easier to ignore it. After all, you can’t see the chemicals. There isn’t really an immediate effect that is apparent from using these products. And after all, I’ve got so many other immediate issues that are on my mind.

But the more I’ve learned about toxic chemicals, the more I’ve come to understand that it isn’t an issue that can be ignored. It’s dangerous too, because it is so easy to put it out of your mind, yet it has such severe, permanent consequences. Toxic chemicals can be the likely culprit causing early puberty, learning disabilities and rising cancer rates and this has to stop.

Currently, manufacturers aren’t required to test the chemicals they use to make sure they are safe. To add insult to injury, manufacturers aren’t even required to tell us what chemicals they are using. And even when they do tell us, you would need to be a chemist to understand.

At the Toxic Free Kids Olympics, we made two giant torches where parents and kids wrote messages about why they support toxic chemicals reform. In an effort to bring more attention to this issue and spread information across the state about why we need action on toxic chemicals legislation, we are going to do more of these events across the state and gather more messages from North Carolina’s families.

This isn’t something that can be fixed through consumer demand. This isn’t something that I can just go online to do a search and find out if the product I am buying is safe. This is an issue where we need our elected officials to act so we must make our voices heard.

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