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For Mother's Day: What Chemical Reform Can Do For Workers

Written by Dana Ginn Paredes for - News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.

In celebration of Mother's Day, May 9th, 2010, RH Reality Checkis publishing a series of articles on the intersection of motherhood with reproductive and sexual justice.

"America's system for regulating industrial chemicals is broken," Senator Frank Lautenberg said when he introduced the Safe Chemicals Act last week. "Parents are afraid because hundreds of untested chemicals are found in their children's bodies. EPA does not have the tools to act on dangerous chemicals, and the chemical industry has asked for stronger laws so that their customers are assured their products are safe."

As a parent-to-be (8 weeks to go, and counting down) I was elated to read Lautenberg’s words, and to know that he has helped kick off a long overdue discussion of the US’s outmoded system.  When the current law governing how chemicals are was passed in 1976 regulated (Toxic Substances Control Act or TSCA), people were wearing red-white and blue bell- bottoms and I was a toddler.  Then, there were 5,000 chemicals in regular use, and now we are at about 90,000.  Clearly, we are living in a different world and change is long overdue.

Entering the world of parenting has always been fraught with decisions…how to balance work and family, choosing a pediatrician, and paying for daycare have been at the top of the list for decades.  More recently, families have expressed growing concern about our ongoing exposure to toxic chemicals, and the impact that has on babies and children’s health and well-being.  The possible links between environmental toxins and autism and other childhood diseases that are on the rise keep many expectant parents up at night.

But I work at Asian Communities for Reproductive Justice, where a large part of my job has been supporting the nail salon community.  When I hear Senator Lautenberg talk about the fears that parents feel, I also see the rest of the iceberg, and know we are only the tip.

Nail salons are by no means the “dirtiest” industry women work in, but in cities like Oakland, it is a significant employer for low-income, immigrant women. ... Read more