“Taking action” is key to fundamental change in all aspects of our lives. However, taking action to effect positive changes to protect our bodies and our environment from toxic chemicals can sometimes seem like an uphill battle. Especially when trying to effect change on the federal level. San Francisco Department of the Environment Program Director Debbie Raphael offered the following inspiring story to prove that change can definitely happen, but it doesn’t have to begin at the top!
The city of San Francisco became the first city in the USA to ban phthalates in children’s toys in December 2006. The ban prohibits the sale, distribution and manufacture of baby products containing any level of bisphenol A and certain levels of phthalates. These toxic chemicals, which are used to harden or soften plastics, can leach out each time a baby sucks on a favorite doll or gnaws on a cool teething ring, scientists say. A small number of human studies, and a large number of animal tests, suggest that these chemicals interfere with the hormone system.
Assemblywoman Fiona Ma from San Francisco took the same idea to the California State Assembly and on January 1, 2009, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed into law a similar ban for the State of California. Also, California state senator Dianne Feinstein heard of the San Francisco ban and introduced a bill in congress that won approval by broad, bi-partisan approval and an official ban took effect on February 10, 2009!
Debbie’s point was that, although it may be frustrating waiting on the federal government to make broad changes regarding protecting us from toxic chemicals, creating change on the local level is much easier. “The world is changed by people who show up,” Debbie said. And it is much easier to show up to your local city hall then the US Capitol and you have more of a chance of actually meeting with a decision maker. Debbie encouraged us to join local environmental organizations that are working to create change locally.
Another huge piece of advice from Debbie: “Shop Locally!” Debbie and Mindy both urged us to spend our money locally whenever possible. It is much easier to change the buying habits of your local market when the owner of that market knows what you want and that you shop there often. Owners like to keep customers coming back and are open to suggestions on merchandise they should carry. Mindy advises “Every time you buy something, you are voting with your dollars. Buy something that contains toxic chemicals or has wasteful packaging and that store will continue to stock those items. Buying non-toxic, sustainable products ensures that you are sending a message to the store owner that you want more green products.” Great advice to incorporate into your everyday life! Thanks Mindy and Debbie for inspiring us to “Take Action” against toxic chemicals. We would love to hear what local environmental organizations inspire you. Please let us know in the comments section below.