- Support more scrutiny of toxic chemicals


By Ashley Cochrane

I am a survivor of childhood cancer. My mom is a survivor of breast cancer.

I have several friends who are currently fighting cancer. And I'm willing to bet you know someone who is fighting, has fought or has died from cancer.

My cancer story has a positive ending — my cancer was found early and treated effectively, and it happened so early in my life that I do not remember the ordeal. And my cancer has never recurred.

The one unanswered question in my cancer story is, "What caused it?" I may never know the answer to that question. What I do know from current, mainstream research is that exposure to chemicals in the environment is a significant contributor to cancer in the United States.

I also know the law currently regulating our exposure to chemicals in the environment is ineffective at protecting us from harm.

Only a small portion of the 80,000 chemicals currently on the market have been tested for safety and many are linked to various cancers, as well as to learning disabilities, and to damage to our reproductive health and neurological development.

What this means is that chemicals all around us — chemicals we breathe, chemicals we clean our homes with, chemicals we apply to our bodies to clean them or to make them more beautiful — are making us sick. This is unacceptable.

My daughter is one year old. In her short life, her father and I have tried our best to provide her a safe home and healthy food free from cancer-causing chemicals.

But I know that already she has been exposed to harmful chemicals, simply because they are so pervasive they cannot be avoided. She has even been exposed to chemicals in what should be the most safe and healthy food of all — my breast milk — simply because the chemicals that are in our environment are in my body.

For all these reasons, I support the 2010 Toxic Chemicals Safety Act, which would reform the current federal legislation called the Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA) of 1976, which has proven to be ineffective in protecting us from harm.

Our families should not be treated like science experiments for the chemical industry when there are safer substitutes and process technologies, better testing methodologies and more effective enforcement techniques to solve this problem.

The new bill is a vast improvement over TSCA in that it would result in the prevention of exposures to toxic chemicals in the workplace, in our communities and in our homes and public places through the products we buy, and reduce toxic air and water pollution which disproportionately affects workers and families living near chemical facilities.

We should not have to worry that products we buy in the grocery store or at the pharmacy are making us sick, causing diseases, or leading to birth defects in future generations.

We want the toys we buy for our children to be safe from lead and mercury that can impair their development, the lotions and sunscreens we apply to be free from cancer-causing chemicals, the food and beverages we consume to be without hormone-disrupting substances and the air we breathe to be clean.

We want to be confident that the products we purchase to clean our homes, will be free from chemicals that will harm us.

Safer chemicals are available as alternatives, but we must get the dangerous ones off the market.

It is my strong hope that someday all of our children will be able to correctly assume that the products around them have been tested and proven to be safe for their health, and never have to experience the horrors of cancer themselves

Ashley Cochrane, of Berea, is a mother and volunteer with the Kentucky Environmental Foundation.