Preventing Toxic Contamination by Getting Local
CNN’s Dr. Gupta is hosting a series on toxic chemical contamination around the country called Toxic America. This past Saturday, Dr. Gupta’s story focused on pregnancy and toxic chemicals by following a couple who had difficulty getting pregnant only to realize some troubling information. Women are carrying a body burden of toxic chemicals being released from things found in our homes and places of work.
Dr. Gupta stated: “Scientists at the Columbia Center for Children's Environmental Health in New York City have been following hundreds of pregnant women over the past 12 years to measure chemicals entering the womb during pregnancy.
The women trudge through the city for 48 hours wearing special backpacks, each with a long tube that is slung over the shoulder. The tube, resting inches below the pregnant mom's mouth, sucks air into a special filter, giving an approximate measurement of the air that she is breathing. The backpack is designed to measure ambient toxics spewed by vehicles, pesticides, and chemicals from common household products.”
Dr. Landrigan from the Children’s Environmental Health Center at Mount Sinai School of Medicine states, “"For 80 percent of the common chemicals in everyday use in this country we know almost nothing about whether or not they can damage the brains of children, the immune system, the reproductive system, and the other developing organs. . . It's really a terrible mess we've gotten ourselves into."
The failure of corporations and our government’s action to set up safeguards that protect our most vulnerable populations against harmful impacts of the chemicals in everyday use is astounding at best. To continue to do so even after the release of hundreds of studies on chemicals found in flame retardants to tin can linings to pvc plastic school supplies is . . . well its just disgusting. And it’s one of the many reasons why people are losing trust in large corporations and are frustrated with our nation’s government agencies.
Organizations around the world are fighting to pass state, national and international laws to prevent this from continuing and we should support them when and where we can. But what I find particularly inspiring are the local community organizations that are working to stop pollution while mobilizing those that live in their own neighborhoods to take a leadership role in preventing harm in the first place.
This Saturday, August 14, in Oakland, CA there is a celebration called Fresh Fest 2010. It’s a celebration of East Bay area youth getting active to protect our environment and our health through education and community engagement. It is being hosted by a large Oakland collaborative, including the Toxic Triangle Coalition. West Oakland is often called the Toxic Triangle because of its long list of toxic contamination. Fresh Fest is one way to get educated, have fun, and get involved. And it is something that can be replicated all over the country.
As Dr. Gupta has stated in his Toxic America series, chemical contamination isn’t just about what toxic chemicals are turning up in our bodies and in the environment, it is also about the lasting impacts this contamination has on our children’s ability to learn and our economy.
Communities hit by chronic chemical pollution suffer higher financial losses due to higher rates of health problems such as development and neurological disorders and reductions in future generation’s IQ points and thus earning potential. Eliminating the use of toxic chemicals from our homes, schools, and places of work isn’t just good policy, it’s a way to protect our individual communities from greater societal harm.
It is only through our individual action will we move closer to preventing toxic pollution from happening. As we begin to better understand the true impacts of the thousands of chemicals being used everyday, we are increasingly in need to stand up and participate.
One way to stand up is by participating in events like Fresh Fest 2010 and volunteering for organization’s like the Community Rejuvenation Project. Here are a few other groups that can help you find a way to raise your own voice:
Ella Baker Center for Human Rights
For a toxic free future,
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