In honor of Mother's Day this Sunday, our partners in the Safer States network are publishing a series of blogs, Lessons from our Mothers. Breast Cancer Fund advocate, Climb Against the Odds team member and breast cancer survivor Joey Beauregard shared a lesson from her mom for the series:
If everyone else jumped off of a bridge, would you? My mother drove those words into my head like a mantra. During my adolescence when I tried desperately to fit in, I heard them every day. Although my mother complained that her advice went in one ear and out the other (another phrase she liked to use), I did listen. Her wisdom has become a cornerstone on how I view the world today.
When I was 44, I received a diagnosis of breast cancer. Given that I had no family history of the disease, ate a healthy diet and exercised regularly, I could not understand why this happened to me. Within a few weeks of my diagnosis, I learned of other young women in my neighborhood that had also been told they had breast cancer during the past year. We had all lived in our neighborhood for at least 16 years at that time. We also lived 1/2 mile from the Tower Chemical Superfund site where DDT and other toxic chemicals had polluted our environment.
I began questioning if our proximity to the waste site had caused our cancer. In search of an answer to my question, I reached out to the Florida Department of Health, the Florida Environmental Protection Agency and the EPA. Although none of the government agencies I contacted would admit that Tower Chemical had caused our cancer, the EPA did commence cleanup of the Tower site.
After learning what I could about toxic chemicals, I came to the realization that pollution in our environment affects more than just my neighbors and myself. It is a crisis that is affecting all of us. No matter where we live, we eat food, drink water and breathe air that is likely to be contaminated with toxic chemicals–and these chemicals are often hidden ingredients in every day products, like toys, cookware, shower curtains, even food containers. Mounting scientific evidence is linking the chemicals in our environment to breast cancer and a host of other diseases.
Our current chemical laws are outdated. The Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) was passed in 1976. Of the over 84,000 chemicals on the market today, the EPA has required testing on only a few hundred of them. Only 5 chemicals have been restricted since TSCA went into effect. The chemical industry would have us believe all these chemicals are safe, but the growing scientific evidence suggests otherwise.
The Safe Chemicals Act (S. 847) was introduced by Sen. Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey in April of 2011. The legislation addresses many of TSCA’s breakdowns. S. 847 will require a chemical to be proven safe for all people before it can be sold, require chemical companies to supply health risk information about their products to the EPA and consumers, setup a prioritization system for chemical testing and action that gives the highest priority to chemicals that are persistent, bio-accumulative and toxic and will encourage development of safer chemicals.
It is time for our government to enact the Safe Chemicals Act to protect us from the toxic chemicals that lurk in our environment. Chemical companies are attempting to turn the clock back and erase the modern science that is reflected in this bill. I am not willing to jump off a bridge with the chemical companies leading the way. Are you?
Joey Beauregard lives in Clermont, Florida and was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 44 after living near a toxic waste site for 16 years. In 2010 Joey participated in the Breast Cancer Fund's Climb Against the Odds, climbing Mt. Shasta to raise awareness and funds to eliminate toxic chemicals in our environment. She hopes for a day when sound laws are put in place to keep all of us safe from toxic chemicals in our environment.