Dear Senator Gillibrand,
My dear childhood friend Carol* is dying. Carol has stage 4 cancer and now it has metastasized to her brain.
I don’t know if you are religious, Senator Gillibrand, but I have to think that the “other side” has no toxic chemicals to avoid, and no cancer. And for that, I’m comforted.
Carol is like you and me – she is a devoted wife, a loving daughter, a fun sister, a doting aunt, and a great friend. She lives a relatively quiet life by the beach on Long Island with her husband and a couple of cats. Carol is an animal lover. She rescues stray cats and provides loving homes for them. Carol is a published author, medical journalist, and an avid cyclist. She loves making beaded jewelry. Carol plays flute. She is funny, optimistic, intelligent, creative, and beautiful inside and out.
Just like you and me, she was exposed to all kinds of chemicals.
No one really knows if toxic chemicals played a role in her cancer. But as you know, there are over 80,000 types of chemicals, and over 200 chemicals that we are exposed to daily. So I cannot help but think that they had something to do with the rising incidence of cancer in our lives.
In light of Carol’s illness, I want to thank you for co-sponsoring the Safe Chemicals Act with the late Senator Lautenberg. I was heartened when you said you were, “shocked to learn that in most instances, the federal government is unable to require safety testing of the chemicals used in the products my kids use every day…It’s outrageous that everything from car seats to my son’s dishware could be leaching hormone disrupting or cancer causing chemicals, but the EPA is virtually powerless to regulate them. We need to do better. This legislation will give the EPA the authority to collect the data and study the chemicals in our everyday products and empower consumers with the knowledge they need to keep our families safe.”
I know you have been a passionate advocate, and a true leader in making New Yorkers safer and healthier –working to compensate the 9/11 first responders, addressing the country’s nursing shortage, making quality autism treatment more affordable, improving asthma treatment for children, and ensuring our drinking water and baby products are safer.
You’ve co-sponsored legislation to increase awareness of breast cancer in young women and high-risk groups. And you continue to find ways to fund “national research on environmental factors…including exposures to pesticides and hormones in food, ingredients in personal care products, and airborne pollutants.“
Mostly, I applaud you for standing up for consumers when you acknowledged and co-sponsored the Safe Chemical Act, because research shows that children and pregnant women are particularly vulnerable to toxic chemical exposures. Being poisoned by chemicals in our day-to-day products is unacceptable.
It might be too late for my friend Carol, but not for your children – our children. They should NOT be exposed to these aggregated chemicals daily.
Let’s give the “Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) the tools to collect health and safety information, screen chemicals for safety, and require risk management when chemicals cannot be proven safe.” It boggles my mind that under the current law, the EPA has only been able to “require testing for roughly 200 of the more than 84,000 chemicals currently registered in the United States, and has been able to ban only five dangerous substances since TSCA was first enacted in 1976.”
Senator Gillibrand, I know you love your children as much as I love mine. Which is why I am asking for your leadership to strengthen the bill you introduced — because it needs to be significantly strengthened in order to protect people from environmentally-induced cancers. We need your ongoing strong leadership and conviction, because no mother should have to bury her daughter, and no husband should lose his wife because our government didn’t protect them.
Sincerely, Karen Lee DC.
Sadly, Carol (*whose name has been changed to protect her privacy) peacefully passed away at home shortly after I wrote this. She was surrounded by her loving family and her two cats.