A few months ago, I wrote about a study put on by the Washington Toxics Coalition (WTC) that analyzed the level of toxins that babies are exposed to in the womb. Of the nine women tested for the study, 100 percent had bisphenol A (BPA) in their bodies; 100 percent had mercury; and most had several different types of phthalates. And last week, one of the study participants, Molly Gray, took her frustrations to Congress as she asked the legislators, "Why can't I protect my baby from chemicals?"
Gray struggled for years with fertility and repeated miscarriages. When she discovered that there might be a connection between the chemicals in her environment and her ability to conceive and carry a baby to term, Gray made a conscious effort to limit her exposure to chemicals. She ate organic food, used personal-care products that didn't contain chemicals called phthalates and fragrances, and avoided plastics.
So I can only imagine her surprise when, finally pregnant, she took part in the WTC study only to learn that her levels of toxins such as mercury, flame retardants, bisphenol A and phthalates were higher than the national average.
Molly, now the mother of a happy 7-month-old baby boy named Paxton, told senators of her shock at learning she had chemicals such as phthalates, bisphenol A and mercury, in her body, despite her best efforts to avoid products containing the chemicals. Gray called on senators to take these steps:
* Take immediate steps to eliminate the uses of persistent toxic chemicals — those that build up in bodies or are passed on to the next generation in the womb.
* Legislation should reduce the use of chemicals that have known serious health effects and ensure only the safest chemicals are created and used in everyday products.
* Create standards that protect vulnerable populations like pregnant women and developing fetuses.
"I wanted to see if my best intentions made a difference. The answer I received was incredibly disheartening. I was shocked that my levels were as high as they were. I learned that this fight to avoid toxins is larger than one person alone. These chemicals are ubiquitous in the environment, and as clean as I tried to be, it was not enough to protect my baby boy," testified Gray at a Senate Subcommittee on Superfund, Toxics and Environmental Health hearing entitled, "Current Science on Public Exposures to Toxic Chemicals."
"... Something is wrong when I, as an educated consumer, am unable to protect my baby from toxic chemicals. I and all other parents should be able to walk into stores and buy what we need without winding up with products that put our families' health at risk. Now that I've learned that companies can put chemicals into products without ever testing for whether they harm our health, I think we need to change our laws."
Photo of Molly Gray courtesy of Washington Toxics Coalition