The campaign for Kid-Safe Chemicals shifted into high gear this week (April 14) on a glorious spring day in Washington D.C. as the Environmental Working Group (EWG) presented petitions signed by more than 85,000 Americans to key Senate backers of chemicals regulation reform.
On the day before Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) introduced his much anticipated bill to make chemicals regulation reform a reality, EWG President and Co-Founder Ken Cook met with the veteran lawmaker in his Senate offices and rolled out a 188-foot long scroll containing the names of the signers of EWG’s petition.
“We can get this done,” Sen. Lautenberg told Mr. Cook as the two leaders in the movement to protect Americans from chemical hazards thanked each other for their efforts and promised to press the campaign to a successful end – enactment of the Safe Chemicals Act of 2010.
Earlier in the afternoon, EWG Chief of Staff Heather White and Senior Vice President for Research Jane Houlihan presented a copy of the same names to Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) in the imposing hearing room of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, which Sen. Boxer chairs. The committee will have jurisdiction over the legislation in the Senate.
On the House side, Ms. White and EWG Legislative Analyst Jason Rano delivered the same petition to Rep. Bobby L. Rush, chairman of the Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection.
Lautenberg introduced his bill in the Senate on the same day (April 15) that the House Energy and Commerce Committee released a “discussion draft” of its parallel legislation. Rep. Rush, along with Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif), chairman of the committee, and Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass), chairman of the Energy and Environment Subcommittee, plan to hold a series of meetings with key interest groups in the coming weeks as they write the final language for a House version of the bill.
Sen. Lautenberg and his aides were visibly impressed as Mr. Cook unrolled just the first 12 feet of the scroll of petition signers, whose names were typed single-spaced across five columns on a continuous sheet 188 feet long. The senator read aloud the language of the petition calling for legislative action, which cited studies by EWG and government agencies showing that babies are being born “pre-polluted” with more than 400 chemicals, including a number known to have potentially serious effects on development.
“When you see these external influences that invade our opportunities to have healthy lives,” Sen. Lautenberg said, it highlights the need to pass legislation that will ensure that chemicals are tested for safety before they go into wide use. “I believe that, I believe that deeply,” the senator said.
Sen. Lautenberg, who is undergoing chemotherapy for lymphoma, described how a sister and two grandchildren had been afflicted with pediatric cancer, asthma and diabetes, all diseases that may be linked in varying degrees to chemical exposures in the environment.
Sen. Boxer, accepting a copy of the same list of petition signers, assured her EWG visitors that “I care about making sure that we keep this planet habitable for our children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren.” Standing beneath the seal of the United States and a high ceiling festooned with the signs of the zodiac, the California senator learned that the petition signers included 12,700 of her California constituents.
Boxer will be the key figure in scheduling committee action on the Safe Chemicals bill, whose broad outlines have thus far been endorsed by a broad array of environmentalist, academics and industry.
It’s not too late to sign EWG’s petition. If you want to let your senators and representatives know that you, too, support chemicals regulation reform, please go to the Kid-Safe Chemicals campaign page and add your name.