Recently in my human health and the environment class at Colby College, we have been discussing the chemical industry and its inevitable effects on human health and the environment. We recently read and discussed the innovative and inspiring "An Act to Protect Children's Health and the Environment form Toxic Chemicals in Toys and Children's Products" (Maine Public Law Chapter 643
). My professor Gail Carlson — who holds a Ph.D in biochemistry from the University of Wisconsin and whose areas of expertise include women and the environment, biochemistry, environmental health and toxicology, women's health and science literacy — highlighted the fact that despite endless Republican effort to prohibit Chapter 643 because of the blow to manufacturers, who produce the toxic toys and products that harm Maine's children and the environment, the Maine legislature concluded that "they could not vote against children's health." Chapter 643 creates a system based on a hazard-based approach in which any chemical that is suspected of harming children's health and the environment can be banned by a citizen board without having to be approved by Maine legislature.
She went on to mention that one of the reasons why not all states have such laws to protect children's health and the environment is the promotion of "sound science," which is essentially the belief that scientists cannot be trusted to determine what chemicals are toxic because they are tree huggers who say everything causes cancer. I was horrified but not surprised when she stated that the number one supporter and advocate of sound science is my very own Oklahoma Republican Sen. Jim Inhofe, a man who is notoriously known for his overall disbelief in global warming and criticism of the scientific consensus that climate change is the result of human activity.
Although I report for the state of Maine, I proudly hail from the state of Oklahoma. I admit that I am beyond embarrassed by my state's representation of complete backwardness. Has Sen. Inhofe explicitly stated that he is against protecting children's health and the environment? By supporting sound science, he most definitely has. By supporting a risk-based approach — an approach that says no chemical will be banned until proven that it is hazardous — Inhofe encourages the continued degradation of children's health and the contamination of the environment in which their highly susceptible bodies exist, and confirms the fact that countless children in the state of Oklahoma will continue to be negatively affected by the chemicals that they encounter every day.
I truly hope that someday Oklahomans will protect themselves and their children by electing someone who cares more about the health of its most vulnerable citizens.