Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Now Testify

By: Dana Swanson

Yesterday, Jessie Dye and I braved the morning commute to testify before the Washington State Legislature’s Environment, Water & Energy Senate Committee in Olympia. Keep in mind; this was only my second time visiting the state capitol. My only testifying experience being second-hand from reruns of Law & Order, I had no idea what to expect.

Upon entering Senate Hearing Room 4, my eyes surveyed chairs filled with crisp suit jackets, but also with worn sweaters and wrinkled shirts. Expecting the room to be lined with intimidating, shifty-eyed lobbyists in expensive suits, I was comforted by the number of “regular” people in attendance.

Over the course of the two-hour Public Hearing, three bills were heard. After a legislative staff member introduced each bill, those who signed up to testified were asked to come forward, in groups of three, to share their insights. Jessie and I were there to testify in support of SB 5231, The Children’s Safe Products Bill. The Children’s Safe Products Bill requires manufacturers of children's products to find safer alternatives to toxic chemicals in their products.

I'm not an expert witness, I don't know the impacts phthalates on the reproductive system —I probably couldn't even spell phthalates without spell check. I do know, however, that I don't want to worry about cancer-causing formaldehyde in my child's blankets, or in any blankets, for that matter. So when I went before the Committee, I said just that.

When it was time for my 90 seconds of fame, I spoke to why I, a 22-year old woman who intends on having children someday, don’t want toxic chemicals used in my daughter’s dolls. As a person of faith, I spoke from the heart about protecting current and future generations from harmful chemicals. Although my message was serious, I light-heartedly joked about how mothers have enough on their minds without worrying about baby bottles poisoning their children—tattoos, for example.

The legislating and policy world are very new to me, but I find myself utterly enthralled. Not only is the process fascinating, engaging in the political process is incredibly empowering. Although testifying before a Committee may sound intimidating, it is a chance to articulate your commitment to care for creation in a very meaningful way.

If you're interested in sharing your testimony with state policy makers at public hearings through the legislative session, or would like to host an adult education forum at your church on environmental health issues, please contact Jessie Dye.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Toxic-Free Future for Our Children

By: Sarah Holmes
Earth Ministry Intern

Earth Ministry actively engages people of faith and congregations in campaigning for a toxic-free future. If you're interested in learning more or if you'd like to get involved with Earth Ministry's toxic-free work, please contact Jessie Dye. Sarah is a student at Seattle University and working with Earth Ministry's effort against toxins. As a new mother, she has a unique perspective on the effect of environmental toxins.

As any first time mother can tell you, many of your old values and long-held perspectives and beliefs shift by the time your baby gives you that first, innocent smile. For me, that change took the form of having my eyes opened to many of the problems facing children all over the world, and especially those that will affect my family. Before my daughter was born, I honestly had no idea that there were dangerous chemicals in baby bottles and I never gave any thought to the fact that mercury is now found in dangerously high levels in all of America’s fresh water fish. Now, however, I feel like an insurance claims analyst: constantly evaluating the potential hazards of any given situation or product before I allow my daughter to participate. And the amount of easily preventable dangers out there to young children appalls me.

As a mother, I have to be both a nurturer and a warrior. I would love to live in a world where all I am required to do to raise a strong, healthy daughter is to cuddle her and nurse her before bed. That is not the kind of world that we were given, however. In order to raise the kind of woman I pray my daughter will become, it is my responsibility to fight for her. I have to fight for her education, for her safety, and for her health. In a world where rates of autism have more than tripled, asthma has increased 75%, and diabetes type 2 has increased 32%, all since the 1980s, it is obvious that something more needs to be done to protect our children. As mothers, as warriors, and as advocates for our children, we have to be the ones to take up this mantle.

Right now, you can do something to help protect your children, and mine. The Washington Toxics Coalition is lobbying for our state legislature to pass The Toxics-Free Kids Act, a bill that will require companies to identify harmful chemicals found in their products and will ban BPA in baby bottles and other food containers. Join them in their fight to identify and ban hazardous chemicals from our children's products by going to the Washington Toxics Coalition website and help them advocate for a toxic-free future for our children.