What is our 'toxic' legacy? | Island Forum

This time of year is one of transition; back to school, the sun is setting a little earlier and rising a little later.

For some of us, the Jewish High Holy days are looming very close. They arrive at a perfect time — in the midst of all of these changes. It is now that we take account of what is truly important and make adjustments accordingly.

Part of our liturgy is dedicated to reminding ourselves of our commitment to pass our traditions and beliefs from generation to generation. Our lives are centered around family and community, and building memories and traditions. Part of our mission as parents, grandparents and educators is to improve the lot of the next generation.

Though we all take this mission very seriously, I am concerned that we are hampered in our efforts without even knowing it.

Of late, I have come to learn that many of our children’s products contain toxic flame retardants. Those very products could very well be making them sick.

Many of you may remember, way back in the ’70s, the health concerns about certain cancer-causing flame retardants in children’s pajamas. Manufacturers removed them from the pajamas, but those flame retardants, known as chlorinated TRIS, are still used in baby and children’s products from strollers and car seats to nap mats, as well as sofas and chairs.

Unfortunately, cancer-causing TRIS flame retardants became popular again when Washington and other states banned the neurotoxic flame retardants called PBDES. Companies just moved from one harmful chemical to another without regard for our children’s health.

Shockingly, a recent study found toxic flame retardants in 17 of 20 children’s products tested, including nursing pillows and changing pads purchased at Washington retailers, such as Walmart and Target. When the toxics escape, they mix with household dust and are ingested by our children as they explore the world around them. As a result, our little ones are exposed to cancer-causing agents and neurotoxic chemicals while they sleep, play and eat.

There are safer ways to achieve fire-safe products. Inherently flame resistant materials, smarter methods and safer chemicals are available and used by numerous companies.

“Why isn’t using harmful flame retardants against the law?” you may wonder. That’s a great question.

The Toxic-Free Kids & Families Act will ban the most harmful flame retardants and help prevent companies from switching to yet another bad alternative. Washington’s House of Representatives passed it last year, but the Senate failed to pass anything meaningful, leaving us all vulnerable for another year.

As we take stock of where we are and where we want to be this High Holiday season, please remember that we are all responsible for each other. Members of our Legislature come from our communities and it is our obligation to help them take stock and be accountable to us all.

Rivy Poupko Kletenik is Head of School at the Seattle Hebrew Academy.


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