On Monday, May 21, two dozen Maine women boarded a bus bound for Washington, D.C., to take on the chemical industry. We joined hundreds of others from across the country for a “National Stroller Brigade” to raise awareness about the need for chemical safety reform.
We spoke directly to Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins to ask them to support the Safe Chemicals Act — a long overdue update to the federal Toxic Substances Control Act, or TSCA, which has failed miserably at keeping us informed and safe from the harm of toxic chemicals in our everyday products.
On the bus was a fantastic, powerful, diverse group of women from across the state who had compelling reasons for demanding safer chemical laws. I took the trip for my daughters.
As a parent who works every day to keep my girls safe, I am frustrated by the lack of information available about the safety of the products we use. I feel that if something is on a store shelf, it needs to be safe. There are more than 80,000 chemicals on the market and only 200 have been tested for safety. Chemical companies are not required to test their products before putting them on the market. This is completely unacceptable, so I rode the bus to D.C. for the chance to talk to our congressional delegation about the need for reform.
The “Stroller Brigade” was inspiring, made even more so by Sen. Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey, sponsor of the Safe Chemicals Act. He said we have to reform TSCA because “the status quo is dangerous and unacceptable.”
We then had a full afternoon of meetings with our congressional delegation. Rep. Mike Michaud’s staffer shared his support for protecting workers from toxic chemical exposure, while Rep. Chellie Pingree’s staff reiterated her long-standing strong support on this issue.
We then had the rare privilege of meeting in person with Sen. Susan Collins and Sen. Olympia Snowe. Collins said she believes TSCA is outdated and needs to be reformed. Snowe said she would like to see TSCA reformed and hopes to have the chance to work on it this session. I felt Snowe shared my frustration of finding out a product is harmful only after being used in the home.
I left the meetings feeling energized, hopeful that we have the support of our congressional delegation, and motivated to continue the fight for safer products. The 24 Maine women who went down to D.C., the nearly 3,000 Mainers who have signed our petition at mainemoms.org, the Maine Legislature, which unanimously passed a resolution calling on Congress to reform TSCA, and my two daughters will be watching. The people of Maine are asking for chemical safety reform and Congress is starting to listen.
Megan Rice is the mother of two young girls from China, Maine.