Clean New York

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cleanNYTompkins Weekly – 4/19/2010
by Katie Kelly

As the 40th anniversary of Earth Day approaches, it’s easy to remember the environmental successes of the last several decades. Protecting endangered species, passing the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act are all achievements worth celebrating as we look forward to the future.

And yet, our homes are filled with an increasing number of toxic chemicals. There are over 80,000 registered chemicals in commerce in the US. The vast majority of these were assumed to be safe and have not been tested for health effects or toxicity since laws were passed in the 1970s. Since then, extensive scientific research has shown lifelong health impacts, including cancer, allergies, reproductive problems, and neurological damage, that can result from exposure to certain chemicals. Our federal chemical management system, based on the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), is broken. It has failed to protect us from diseases, disorders and environmental damage linked to chemicals in everyday products.

Clean New York (, a state-wide environmental health and justice organization, is working to address this problem by pushing for governmental chemical policy change, market transformation, and public education. To build momentum, we have partnered with 50 organizations across the state to create the JustGreen Partnership (; local organization members include the Cancer Resource Center of the Finger Lakes, Mira’s Movement, Planned Parenthood of the Southern Finger Lakes, and the Association of Comparative and Environmental Toxicology Students at Cornell. Together, we represent a diverse group of constituencies in the state, all working for a safer and sustainable chemical system.

To help push for safer chemicals, you can talk about this issue with your lawmaker and ask him or her to prioritize these issues. (Relevant bills are pending in both the State Senate and Assembly.) As consumers, we can ask questions to manufacturers and educate our peers. Empowering yourself with knowledge about which products are safer enables you to protect your health, contributes to their better availability, decreases cost, and moves us one tiny step closer to a more sustainable world. You can find more information about safer alternatives and common products in our easy to use free online kits available at:

We will never be able to fully shop ourselves out of the problem, but utilizing available information to influence our choices helps drive innovation in the marketplace and build the case for policy change.

We take care to protect ourselves from the sun, wear seat belts, yet sometimes we don’t even see the important issues right in front of us. Please join with Clean New York and our partners to support a safer chemical policy system for our families and environment. Working together, we have the power to protect ourselves and make change in the broader government setting and marketplace.

Katie Kelly is an Ithaca resident and works as Child-Safe Campaign Coordinator for Clean New York. Please contact her if you have questions or would like more information about these topics:, 734-646-2119.

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