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CNN's 'Toxic Childhood': A Dose of Truth

Did you tune into CNN's special series "Toxic Towns USA" last night? I sure did. I wanted to root on our friends and allies in the town of Mossville, LA who were featured in the special one-hour program hosted by Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Among the local heroes profiled in the piece was Dorothy Felix, who has spent much of the past decade fighting to protect her community from the cancer-causing chemicals raining down upon her hometown of Mossville, a historically African-American community in southwestern Louisiana ringed by chemical plants.

This is a community where University of Texas researchers found that 99 percent of residents suffered from at least one disease or illness related to toxic chemical exposure. Further studies found blood levels of dioxin in Mossville residents rivaling those seen in workers involved in industrial accidents. The toxicologists studying these results called them some of the highest levels ever reported in the United States from an environmental exposure.

As fellow Mossville activist and retired chemical plant employee Edgar Mouton told reporters when he and Felix worked with Earthjustice on a lawsuit for stricter air toxics standards: "We're being hit from the north, south, east, and west. Every time the wind changes, we get a lungful of pollution from some other plant. These chemicals end up in our water, our gardens, our children's bodies. Each day we hear about someone in our community being diagnosed with cancer or another illness."

CNN profiled the heartbreaking stories in their piece last night: entire families struck with cancer, teenage girls suffering from endometreosis and forced to undergo hysterectomies, families left with no choice but to uproot and leave their now-poisoned ancestral homes. The community members' bravery in the face of these hardships was made even more profound when contrasted with the flat-out cowardice of the chemical plant owners and state officials who ducked CNN's request for interviews and refused to meet with Dorothy Felix.

Tonight, CNN is shifting gears: from "Toxic Towns" to "Toxic Childhood"—with a look at the toxics lurking in our homes and in our children's bodies.

From household cleaners to pesticides, the threats are there. Unfortunately, current regulation of the chemical industry is shockingly weak: under the current law the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency did not have the authority to ban even a notorious chemical like asbestos.

Gupta asks: "Should chemicals be innocent until proven guilty?" Our answer: No!

Earthjustice Vice President Patti Goldman put it this way in a recent blog post: "When it comes to protecting our kids from toxic chemicals, parents need a system that meets us halfway. We need to shift the burden from families to the companies who are manufacturing and distributing the chemicals used in these products."

What do you think? Are you ready to change the system and usher in an age when we can move about our daily lives without worrying about carcinogens and hormone disruptors lurking in our kitchenware and mattresses? Or when expectant parents can paint their nurseries, stock them with playthings and baby supplies—all with the security of knowing that each and every chemical in those products has been tested for health effects and found safe for their newborn?

Then click here to contact your member of Congress! Tell your senators to co-sponsor the Safe Chemicals Act and tell your representative to signal their support for comprehensive chemical reform. It will take two seconds. It's vitally important. And it may give you some piece of mind while you're tuning into CNN's "Toxic Childhood."

Here's a preview:

About the Earthjustice Blog

unEARTHED is a forum for the voices and stories of the people behind Earthjustice's work. The views and opinions expressed in this blog do not necessarily represent the opinion or position of Earthjustice or its board, clients, or funders. Learn more about Earthjustice.