Busload of Maine moms heading to Washington with unanimous message from Maine Legislature and 2,500 petitions asking Congress to protect children’s health
Republican Senate President Kevin Raye and House Democratic Leader Emily Cain set aside partisan differences on Tuesday afternoon to send a group of Maine moms and activists to Washington DC with a message from the Maine Legislature calling on Congress to protect children’s health from dangerous chemicals in everyday products. Maine lawmakers unanimously passed a joint resolution on April 4th asking Congress to modernize the outdated and ineffective Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 (TSCA). A busload of Maine moms will carry the message to Washington next week.
“I hope Congress will modernize the Toxic Substances Control Act in a bipartisan manner to require that the best science is used to ensure the safety of chemicals and to protect the health of vulnerable populations such as children,” stated Senator Raye (R-Washington).
“Dangerous chemicals don’t belong in our homes or everyday products,” added Representative Cain (D-Orono). “Maine families and businesses have the right to know that the products they use or sell are safe and free of dangerous toxins.”
Two dozen Maine moms and activists are participating in a nationwide “Stroller Brigade” for safe chemicals on May 22nd on the lawn of the US Capitol. They will join moms from around the country who are demanding action from Congress.
“This isn’t about Republicans or Democrats; this is about the health of our children and grandchildren,” stated Bettie Kettell, a nurse, grandmother, and breast cancer survivor from Durham. “I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished here in Maine, but we can’t solve this problem alone. It’s time to take Maine’s common sense approach to Washington.”
The Maine bus riders have challenged themselves to collect 2,500 petition signatures in just one week using Facebook, Twitter, and email blasts to their friends and family. Since starting their signature gathering efforts yesterday, their website has already collected over 1100 signatures. The riders will deliver their signatures and copies of the Maine Legislature’s resolution to Senators Snowe and Collins and Rep’s Michaud and Pingree, as well as to the desks of all other members of Congress.
Maine moms have long expressed frustration at the lack of progress in overhauling the Toxic Substances Control Act. They say the 35-year-old federal law they say is outdated and ineffective at protecting children and adults from exposure to dangerous chemicals in everyday consumer products, and Congress needs to act.
“Senators Snowe and Collins have both acknowledged that the current federal law is inadequate, but progress is blocked while the chemical industry spends millions lobbying Congress,” said Samantha Sewall, a recent college graduate from Camden. “This is our health, this is our future, and we need to let our representatives know that âwe the people’s want to fix this broken system.”
For the first time, a bill to modernize the nation’s chemical safety system is being considered by a Senate Committee. The Safe Chemicals Act of 2011 (S. 847), introduced by Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), will be considered by the Environment and Public Works Committee later this month. Supporters say it will set right an upside-down system by requiring chemical companies to demonstrate the safety of their products using the best available science, creating market incentives for safer alternatives, and arming parents with the best information possible about chemicals in products that children use every day.
“When toxic chemicals show up in baby products, you know our federal safety system is badly broken,” said Mike Belliveau, President of the Environmental Health Strategy Center. “Until Congress passes the Safe Chemicals Act, the chemical industry foxes will be in charge of the chicken coop.”
Maine’s Senators have a unique opportunity to lead on this issue, because of the strong support at home for quick action on dangerous chemicals in household products, as well as their history of practical, bipartisan policy making. The delegation of Maine moms traveling to DC will meet personally with Senators Snowe and Collins and ask them to help break the gridlock in the Senate to allow the Safe Chemicals Act to move forward.
“The people of Maine are tired of feeling powerless to keep their families and the environment safe from dangerous chemicals,” said Abby King, Toxics Policy Advocate at the Natural Resources Council of Maine. “It’s time for lawmakers in Washington to put peoples’s safety ahead of chemical industry profits.”
As Republicans and Democrats return to the often contentious work of passing a budget and considering outstanding legislation, the moms and activists are making final plans for their three-day trip to Washington DC that will begin early Monday morning. They intend to keep their social media efforts going during the trip and will be sending back video clips, blog posts, and doing real-time interviews with their local newspapers, radio, and TV stations. After returning to Maine on May 23rd they hope to keep the conversation about safe chemicals going in their communities as the vote by the Environment and Public Works Committee gets closer.