A historic event in Washington D.C. happened yesterday that did not make headlines, but it should have.
On Wednesday, June 22, President Obama signed into law a bill that will change the way the Environmental Protection Agency regulates chemicals.
Thousands of you, members of Moms Clean Air Force, have been working with us to achieve new protections: meeting with lawmakers, signing petitions, giving testimony, sharing stories about how toxic chemicals have affected your lives and the health of most of our most vulnerable population—children. You know that we are awash in chemicals—now some 64,000 not subject to regulation or testing; they are in most of the stuff we wear, live with, sleep on, and clean with. These chemicals are in our bodies, and our babies are born “pre-polluted.” Scientists have measured up to a hundred chemicals in umbilical cords.
The new bill is both a health bill and an environmental bill—because these chemicals also enter our air and our waters. It is the result of a decade of work. It is the result of Republicans and Democrats reaching consensus. It is the result of environmentalists and the chemical industry sitting down together to figure out what each group could live with.
It was the honor, and thrill, of a lifetime, to shake President Obama’s hand and have him thank me and my colleagues for the work we did. I stood next to Richard Denison, the scientist at EDF who led their reform efforts, who has become my guru on all things chemical since 2011 when I first wrote in the New York Times about chemicals in baby bottles. I have rarely met a more thoughtful, concerned, intelligent, informed, considerate, and dedicated person—both scientist and activist on behalf of our health.
We all learned a lot through this chemical reform process. We have a tough challenge ahead, getting laws to protect us from the carbon and methane pollution that is changing our climate so dangerously.
But change can happen. Perhaps our media will see a way to focus on good when it is done.
And, as President Obama noted: perhaps a law protecting us from toxic chemicals means that “we can make our politics less toxic, too.”