Yesterday a group of concerned Long Islanders met outside Wild By Nature grocery store in Huntington Village to picket and demonstrate against the use of toxic pesticides on all public and private areas in Suffolk County and elsewhere in New York State. When it comes to pesticide control, the U.S. is way behind Europe* in regulating their availability and use. Having had two close friends diagnosed with breast cancer and three others that lost a parent to cancer this year, this is an issue very much on the forefront of my mind and I would guess many other Long Islanders as well. In 1976 when Congress enacted the Toxic Substances Control Act to protect us from toxic chemicals, it also grandfathered in some 60,000 chemicals with no testing requirements. Another 20,000 chemicals were added to this list over the next three decades. In fact the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has required testing on only 200 chemicals! Why is it so difficult for the EPA to research and ban harmful chemicals in our environment? It’s not just the crunchy granola type people on the fringe of society calling for action but respected scientists, doctors and other citizens who believe that the rise in autoimmune and other diseases are related to these chemicals.** It is nice that our First Lady is encouraging our children to eat right and excersise but what about addressing contamination in the air we breathe, the water we drink and the food we eat? We all do our best to keep our children and loved ones healthy and safe but with such busy lives we also expect our elected officials to pick up on important issues that we simply do not have time to investigate.
Like many, I don’t spray any toxic chemicals on my lawn and garden and clean my home with baking soda, vinegar and other natural cleaning products. We also eat predominantly local and organic, mow our lawn (albeit a small one) with a manual push mower and compost yard waste and kitchen scraps. However, most seasons we are assaulted by lawn care services spraying neighbors’ yards with toxic chemicals, noise pollution from the mowers and blowers, not to mention the heavy landscaping trucks burning fuel, blocking roads and packing up yard waste in plastic bags that makes it difficult to decompose when it finally arrives at a landfill. Little green signs that let us know when and where pesticides have been sprayed don’t really help when there’s wind, rain and animals bringing all of these potentially harmful materials into our yards, vegetable gardens and our children’s bodies.
We cannot have blind faith and expect our government to protect us on all levels. We must stay connected to policy making and have our voices heard. We live in the greatest country in the world and our government employees should be reminded that they work for us and not for their own personal advancement. There are many examples of government policies that were presented to the public as environmental improvements but which turned out to create new problems. For instance, the government introduced gasoline additive MTBE as a way to combat air pollution. MTBE is now one of the primary pollutants of Long Island’s water supply. Seven years ago the use of MTBE was finally banned but the ill effects on our health and wallet is longoing. ***
Similarly the FDA is another agency that needs to be monitored. Recently the Senate voted on the Food Safety Bill, which included an amendment to ban a toxic chemical (bisphenol A, or BPA) in baby bottles and sippy cups. BPA is a known hormone disruptor and is linked to breast and prostate cancer, among other health effects. Yet our Sen. Richard Burr, along with fierce lobbying from the chemical industry, helped ensure a BPA ban wasn’t included in the bill. ****
The BPA agreement was kept out of the food safety bill, and much of the blame also falls on the American Chemistry Council (ACC), an industry trade group that has previously fought against legislation on BPA and other chemicals. In the last two years, the ACC has lobbied against various state laws as well as the Ban Poisonous Additives (BPA) Act of 2009, which never made it out of committee. It also opposed Canada’s decision to label BPA as a toxic chemical. And while the ACC agreed with some concepts in a bill aimed at reforming the U.S.’s chemicals policy, it did not support the exact legislation.
As reported by NPR the ACC has “consistently advocated for respecting the scientific assessment of the experts at FDA who have the capacity and expertise to make food safety contact decisions.” In late 2008 the FDA said that current levels of BPA exposure are safe, but earlier this year the FDA said it agrees with the National Toxicology Program’s statement that there is “some concern” over the chemical’s effects on fetuses, infants and young children, and that it would continue research on it. Common sense tells me that it should be researched while it is OFF the market and not be allowed on until proven safe. Unlike our criminal justice system, new chemicals and drugs should be considered guilty until proved innocent. In another case the FDA approved the continued sales of GlaxoSmithKlines best selling diabetes drug Avandia despite the research showing many potential dangers.******
People are getting angry and starting to question the correlation between the rising rates of cancer, autism, asthma and other degenerative diseases and the enormous allowable amounts of toxins in our towns. A movement is growing across the country to change the laws that allow these dangerous chemicals to be prevalent in our society. Local groups such as the Neighborhood Network located in Farmingdale, Millions of voters.org and Organic landscaping such as Gro Kind were at Wild By Nature yesterday and are spreading the word that if we join together than our voice will be loud enough to get heard in Washington. If you would like to sign the petition asking for a ban on toxic pesticides send an email at millionsof voters.org. Another email can be sent to our Congressman Steve Israel asking for his support of the Toxic Chemicals Safety Act of 2010 HR 5820, recently introduced by Representatives Bobby Rush (D-IL) and Henry Waxman (D-CA). Contact Congressman Israel