Protecting All Kids From Toxic Chemicals – Not just some! (Op Ed from Insight News)

Commentary By:

Kathleen Schuler, MPH
Dr. Rose Brewer
Senator Bobby Joe Champion

The lack of effective policies to regulate the use of chemicals in everyday consumer products impacts everyone’s health. The Toxic Substances Control Act, the law that regulates industrial chemicals in the U.S., fails to control the flood of toxic chemicals into consumer products, resulting in thousands of little regulated, potentially toxic chemicals ending up in everyday consumer products from hand soap and cleaners to children’s nap mats and clothing. These include hormone-disrupting chemicals such as phthalates, bisphenol A, flame-retardants and more. Widespread exposure to toxic chemicals contributes to rising rates of reproductive problems, developmental disabilities and cancer.

While everyone is exposed to toxic chemicals, communities of color and low-income communities experience unequal exposures. Historical environmental injustices have placed more industrial sites, incinerators, superfund sites and other pollution sources in these communities, with accompanying increased exposure to air, water and soil contamination.  So routine exposure to the thousands of chemicals in consumer products is on top of already high environmental exposures and underlying health and economic disparities.

Other factors also contribute to disproportionate environmental impacts for low-income and communities of color. In North Minneapolis, over 75% of the homes were built before 1978, putting local children at higher risk for lead poisoning. Medicaid enrollment data indicates that low-income children are three-times more likely to have elevated blood-lead levels than children from higher income families.[1] Low income families are more likely to live in rental housing, which can be poorly maintained, subjecting families to mold, poor indoor air quality, and insect and rodent infestations. Pesticides are routinely applied to subsidized housing with or without the consent of residents.

Low-income and communities of color also have higher exposures to toxins in consumer products and food. For example, low-income groups had higher levels of urinary bisphenol A (BPA) than higher income groups, likely due to consumption of canned food.[2] Exposure to BPA, a chemical used on food can linings, is linked to higher risk for problems with development and learning. Food dyes frequently used in processed food are associated with hyperactivity and behavioral disorders.[3] [4] Children of color and low-income children are at higher risk because of the availability of fast food restaurants in their communities and reduced access to healthy whole foods without added dyes.

African American and immigrant populations face unique product exposures. For example, African-American and African-Caribbean women are more likely to use hair products with hormonally active chemical ingredients compared with white women, [5] which may place them at higher risk for premenopausal breast cancer.[6] Many Somali women use skin-lightening creams, which can contain high amounts of mercury, a brain toxin that can adversely impact the health of fetuses and young children.

Low-income families also encounter barriers in accessing healthier products, including the time or access to information necessary to research safer products. Products free of toxic chemicals are often more expensive and the stores selling them are not located in their neighborhoods. Low-income families might not be able to afford to replace older furniture and electronic products that contain toxic flame-retardants. They also might have increased exposure to phthalates, lead and other chemicals regulated in new products, through purchasing secondhand toys and baby products or cheap products sold at “dollar stores.”

In the absence of federal action to better regulate chemicals, Minnesota has taken action to protect families at all income levels from unnecessary exposures to chemicals found in everyday consumer products. The Minnesota Department of Health has determined that nine chemicals found in children’s products potentially place children’s health at risk. A bill being introduced in the Minnesota legislature, the Toxic Free Kids Act of 2015 would require that manufacturers report to the Pollution Control Agency if they use any of the nine toxic chemicals in their products. The state agencies would then create consumer programs to educate and inform parents about which products contain these chemicals, so they can be better-informed consumers.

The Toxic Free Kids Act won’t solve all of these historical inequities and environmental injustices, but it’s a positive step to protect our children from preventable exposures and lighten the burden on parents trying their best to give their children a healthy start in life.  It’s time to protect all of our kids.

Authors

Kathleen Schuler, MPH is Co-Director of Healthy Legacy and the Healthy Kids and Families Program Director at Conservation Minnesota.

 

Dr. Rose Brewer chairs the Board of Directors of Environmental Justice Advocates of Minnesota and teaches African American studies at the University of Minnesota.

 

Senator Bobby Joe Champion represents SD 59 in the Minnesota legislature.

Footnotes

[1] Minnesota Department of Health. Minnesota’s Lead Poisoning Prevention Programs: Biennial Report to the Legislature, February 2009.  www.health.state.mn.us

[2] Califat AM, Xiaoyum Y, Wong LY, Reidy JA, Needham L. Exposure of the U.S. Population to bisphenol A and 4-tertiary-octylphenol: 2003-2004. Environ Health Perspectives. 2008;116(1):39-44.

[3] Arnold E, Lofthouse N, hurt E. Artificial colors and attention–deficit/hyperactivity symptoms: conclusions to dye for. Neurotherapeutics 2012;9:599-609.

[4] McCann D, Barrett A, Cooper A, Crumpler D et al. Food additives and hyperactive behavior in 3-year-old and 8/9-year-old children in the community: a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Lancet. 2007;370(9598):1560-7.

[5] James-Todd T, Senie R, Terry MB. Racial/ethnic differences in hormonally-active hair product use: a plausible risk factor for health disparities. J Immigr Minor Health. 2012;14(3):506-11.

[6] Donovan M, Tiwary CM, Axelrod D, Sasco AJ et al. Personal care products that contain estrogens or xenoestrogens may increase breast cancer risk. Med Hypotheses. 2007;68(4):756-66.

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EJAM SUPPORTS THIS FORUM!

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EJAM SUPPORTS – League of Women Voters Minneapolis’ Healthy Legacy Forum Our Children’s Future

 

The 2015 League of Women Voters Minneapolis Presents

Healthy Legacy Forum Our Children’s Future: Advancing Health and Racial Equity, Pre-cradle to Kindergarten

 Thursday February 12, 2015

 Location:

American Indian Center
1530 E. Franklin Ave. South
Minneapolis, MN

EVENT PARKING

  • Parking available in the lot adjacent to the American Indian Center and on the street
  • Overflow parking FREE after 5:30pm at the Community University Health Care Center lot directly across the street (corner of Bloomington and Franklin)

5:30pm EXHIBITS AND NETWORKING

6:45pm-7pm ENTERTAINMENT BY Kairos Alive!

7:00 pm – 9:00 pm  FORUM

FREE Food donated by:

  • Peace Coffee
  • Dream of Wild Health
  • Deep Roots Gourmet Desserts
  • Voices of East African Women
  • Women’s Environmental Institute

Zero Waste by Eureka Recycling

FREE Forum, moderated by Joan Higinbotham

  • Precradle to Kindergarten Commission and vision for Minneapolis families – Betsy Hodges, Mayor of Minneapolis
  • Health/Race Equity & the Community – Jeanne Ayers Assistant Commissioner, MN Department of Health
  • Beyond Disparities – Dr. Rose Brewer,  Environmental Justice Advocates of MN (EJAM)
  • The Somali Experience – Farhio Khalif Voices of East African Women
  • Reducing Environmental Hazards to Child Development – Kathleen Schuler, CoDirector -Healthy Legacy and  Stephanie Belseth Pediatric , Nurse Practitioner
  • Question and Answer session
  • Call to Action – Karen Clark, MN Representative
  • Spiritual Closing – Indigenous Peoples Task Force – Sharon Day

Event Cosponsored by:

  • League of Women Voters Minneapolis
  • Babies Space
  • Clean Water Fund
  • Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. Minneapolis /St. Paul Alumnae chapter
  • Isaiah MN
  • Kairos Alive;
  • Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community; Minneapolis Department of Health Association
  • MN Black Nurses Association
  • MN Pesticide Action Network
  • MN Public Health Association
  • Voices of East African Women
  • Women’s Environmental Institute

Additional partners and supporters:

  • MN League of Women Voters
  • Arc Greater Twin Cities
  • Autism Society of MN
  • Conservation Minnesota
  • Creative Health Connections
  • Eureka Recycling
  • Environmental Justice Advocates of Minnesota (EJAM)
  • Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy
  • Kids for Saving Earth
  • Learning Disability Association, MN;
  • MN Center for Environmental Advocacy; MN Council of Churches
  • MN Public Interest Research Group
  • Planned Parenthood MN
  • Somali Disability Resource Network
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The 2015 League of Women Voters Minneapolis Healthy Legacy Forum

The 2015 League of Women Voters Minneapolis Presents

Healthy Legacy Forum Our Children’s Future: Advancing Health and Racial Equity, Pre-cradle to Kindergarten

 Thursday February 12, 2015

 Location:

American Indian Center
1530 E. Franklin Ave. South
Minneapolis, MN

EVENT PARKING

  • Parking available in the lot adjacent to the American Indian Center and on the street
  • Overflow parking FREE after 5:30pm at the Community University Health Care Center lot directly across the street (corner of Bloomington and Franklin)

5:30pm EXHIBITS AND NETWORKING

6:45pm-7pm ENTERTAINMENT BY Kairos Alive!

7:00 pm – 9:00 pm  FORUM

FREE Food donated by:

  • Peace Coffee
  • Dream of Wild Health
  • Deep Roots Gourmet Desserts
  • Voices of East African Women
  • Women’s Environmental Institute

Zero Waste by Eureka Recycling

FREE Forum, moderated by Joan Higinbotham

  • Precradle to Kindergarten Commission and vision for Minneapolis families – Betsy Hodges, Mayor of Minneapolis
  • Health/Race Equity & the Community – Jeanne Ayers Assistant Commissioner, MN Department of Health
  • Beyond Disparities – Dr. Rose Brewer,  Environmental Justice Advocates of MN (EJAM)
  • The Somali Experience – Farhio Khalif Voices of East African Women
  • Reducing Environmental Hazards to Child Development – Kathleen Schuler, CoDirector -Healthy Legacy and  Stephanie Belseth Pediatric , Nurse Practitioner
  • Question and Answer session
  • Call to Action – Karen Clark, MN Representative
  • Spiritual Closing – Indigenous Peoples Task Force – Sharon Day

Event Cosponsored by:

  • League of Women Voters Minneapolis
  • Babies Space
  • Clean Water Fund
  • Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. Minneapolis /St. Paul Alumnae chapter
  • Isaiah MN
  • Kairos Alive;
  • Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community; Minneapolis Department of Health Association
  • MN Black Nurses Association
  • MN Pesticide Action Network
  • MN Public Health Association
  • Voices of East African Women
  • Women’s Environmental Institute

Additional partners and supporters:

  • MN League of Women Voters
  • Arc Greater Twin Cities
  • Autism Society of MN
  • Conservation Minnesota
  • Creative Health Connections
  • Eureka Recycling
  • Environmental Justice Advocates of Minnesota (EJAM)
  • Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy
  • Kids for Saving Earth
  • Learning Disability Association, MN;
  • MN Center for Environmental Advocacy; MN Council of Churches
  • MN Public Interest Research Group
  • Planned Parenthood MN
  • Somali Disability Resource Network
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EJAM THANKS YOU!

We say thanks to all who contributed to any worthy organization during the Give to the Max 2014 campaign – especially EJAM!  We know there were a few hitches in the process again this year…multiple receipts,  no running tally on the EJAM giving page… so we are still confirming the final donation amount.  We DO believe we met our goal of raising $1000 through Give to the Max 2014.  EJAM thanks you!!!

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GIVE TO THE MAX – 7 HOURS TO GO! CLICK THE LOGOS BELOW TO DONATE! THANKS!

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