On Monday, October 24, more than 250 friends, families, and supporters of the Center for Environmental Health (CEH) toasted the first 15 years of our successful action to protect children and families from harmful chemicals at a gala event in San Francisco.
Welcomed by our Board member Paul Adelstein, the crowd heard from a panel of national green business leaders who discussed energy policy and changing the way business does business, to create an economy that sustains healthy environments for our grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
We auctioned off a lunch with Pulitzer-nominated author Dave Eggers and a day on the set of the hit television show Private Practice. Christine Cordero, Director of CEH’s Bridging Environmental Health and Justice Program emceed the event and moved the crowd with her personal story of overcoming breast cancer at age 19.
Our Executive Director Michael Green explained the “toxic shell game” that the chemical industry plays with our health: how, when they are faced with increasing pressure to eliminate a harmful chemical, the industry often simply substitutes a less well-studied chemical, or worse, one that is known to be harmful but has yet to be tightly regulated.
For example, he informed us, government regulations recently forced companies to stop selling a toxic strawberry pesticide called methyl bromide. How did the chemical companies respond? By replacing methyl bromide with methyl iodide, a pesticide linked to cancer and miscarriages.
Michael told the audience that CEH works to stop this shell game in five ways:
- CEH collaborates with national leaders in green business;
- CEH pressures corporations that are focused on profits at the expense of public health;
- CEH crafts and advocates for policy changes that create incentives for safer business practices and products;
- CEH organizes the public to pressure business and support policy changes, with regular advocacy alerts and our network of MOMS activists in all 50 states; and
- CEH uses cutting-edge science to push for action that protects children and families from harm.
Michael said that, from the outset, CEH had audacious goals, one of which was to end health threats to kids from high levels of lead in children’s products. When CEH was founded in 1996, this seemed an impossible goal – until CEH exposed and eliminated lead threats to children from diaper rash creams, and children’s medicines, and baby bibs, jewelry, candy and many other products. Our work brought national attention to the problem, and in 2008 CEH helped to write and pressured Congress to pass the first-ever federal law banning lead in all children’s products!
Now CEH has another audacious goal. Michael showed the crowd his 3-year old daughter Juliette’s sippy cup. It’s her favorite, he said, but it’s plastic, and like most plastics, it may contain chemicals that can mimic and disrupt our bodies’ natural hormones, chemicals that have been linked to early puberty, abnormal sexual development, reproductive harm and cancer.
One of those chemicals, Bisphenol-A (BPA) was banned from sippy-cups and baby bottles this month in California. But, a recent study showed that many products now sold as “BPA-free” contain other chemicals that create the same hormone-mimicking effects. It appears that the chemical industry simply replaced BPA with chemicals that are not yet well studied and not regulated by government. And so what if our children’s health suffers?
Our latest audacious goal at CEH, Michael said, is to end this shell game. In the next fifteen years, he said, we will work with business leaders, pressure companies, write policy, organize mothers and others, and use cutting edge science to stop companies from going from one harmful chemical to the next.
Our first target, he said, will be the hormone-mimicking chemicals used in children’s products. CEH intends to stop the use of all of these chemicals in all children’s products. And we’ll be working for changes that will protect our children and families from all unnecessary chemical exposures.
As Michael said at our event, we can’t do it without you! Thanks to everyone who came to our event and to everyone who supports CEH!