Health and Wellness

Headlines from the Hill

ON MAY 24,

ANA chief executive officer Marla J. Weston, PhD, RN, spoke at a press conference on Capitol Hill aimed at underscoring to Congress the importance of toxic chemical reform. Organized by the Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families (SCHF) coalition, the press conference also featured remarks from Safe Chemicals Act lead sponsor Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), actress Jessica Alba, pediatrician Leo Trasande, MD, and SCHF executive director Andy Igrejas.

The public has become increasingly aware of the potential risks posed by certain chemicals in the products we use every day. A few chemicals in particular have gotten a lot of attention. Consumers increasingly are avoiding baby bottles made with bisphenol A and
are buying paraben-free cosmetics, thanks to highprofile warnings about these chemicals. But many more potentially dangerous substances are in everyday use.

The surprising truth is that under current U.S. law, chemicals are allowed onto the market with little or no testing for human toxicity. Consumers and workers aren’t informed about harmful chemicals in the products or equipment they use at home and on the job,
and there’s no requirement to substitute safer chemicals for toxic ingredients. Furthermore,
it can take years—sometimes even decades—to remove a chemical from the market once
it has been identified. The Safe Chemicals Act of 2011 (S. 847) would increase the safety of
chemicals used in consumer products, increase public access to health and safety information,
and protect vulnerable populations, such as pregnant women and children.

In her remarks, Weston emphasized that as frontline caregivers in the healthcare
system, nurses are well aware of the damaging effects toxic chemicals have on our bodies and of the fundamental connection between quality of our environment and the health of individuals, families, and communities.

“As nurses, we know that it’s always better to prevent an illness than to treat it, “Weston said. “Consumers and workers have a right to know about harmful
chemicals in the products and equipment they use at home and on the job. Chemical policy reform is critical to our health and is long overdue.”

Alba is adding her star power to the push for commonsense limits on toxic chemicals. As a spokesperson for SCHF, she emphasized her concerns about toxic chemicals as the mother of a young child with another on the way.

Studies continue to demonstrate a link between chemical exposure and serious illnesses, including cancer, reproductive and developmental disorders, neurologic diseases, and asthma. And because of the many chemicals nurses and other healthcare workers are exposed
to every day in the work environment, their health often is at even greater risk.

To learn more about how to make sure the chemicals we use in our day-to-day lives are safe, go to ANA’s safe chemicals site at http://www.rnaction.org/site/PageNavigator/NSTAT/nstat_homepage.

Joe Mayer is a senior political action specialist at ANA.

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