Our Chemical Romance

There are 85,000 synthetic chemicals in our midst, introduced into the environment since the Second World War. Over 216 everyday chemicals have proven correlations to breast cancer, and yet only 7% of the 3,000 in high production have been tested for detrimental effect. It is hard to comprehend a process where a blanket tsunami of usage happens first and examination is still waiting to occur generations later. How such backward procedural method is justified curiosity. Doesn’t it benefit us all to simply research substances and properly learn about what effects they have on humans and the natural world prior to their widespread release?

If humanistic concerns are not enough to provoke change, perhaps business interests will: many countries, including the European Union, have banned thousands of chemicals found to be toxic. Since close to 40% of Massachusetts trade is with EU member states, the discrepancy between the health protective requirements of their products and the lack in ours equals commerce to lose. Can we afford to lag behind, particularly in this economic climate?

Spare Change News got an education on the disease that is striking at ever younger ages while attending the Massachusetts Breast Cancer Coalition’s 15th Annual Lesbians & Friends Dance: A Party for Prevention, held this past January in Brookline. All edification should be such a total blast. The benefit bash featured a packed dance floor courtesy of DJ’s Maryalice and Ann Rogers; a silent auction of items donated by area businesses featuring everything from tricked out sports bikes to luxurious getaway packages; hors d’oeuvres and cake to sup on; a 50/50 raffle; networking and more.

It is impressive, given the seriousness of the MBCC’s objectives, what a good time they make it for others to pitch in. Some of the events they have scheduled for spring include: a statewide Cut-a-thon in honor of Mother’s Day, in which salons will offer $15 haircuts the weekend of the 4th and 5th, and donate one day of proceeds to the Coalition. Call 508-246-3047 or visit the nonprofits’ site to find a participating salon near you. Next; a turkey feast fundraiser at the Publick House Historic Inn follows on May 6th in Sturbridge—contact Cherylr@charter [.net] for tickets.

The facts with the fun: the first thing that differentiates the MBCC from other groups doing good works for this cause is the organization’s exclusive focus on prevention. This is an important distinction in the efforts to address this disease.

Prompted by the high rates of breast cancer on Cape Cod, members of the MBCC founded the Silent Spring Institute in 1994 to facilitate impartial investigation. The institute, named in tribute to Author Rachel Carson’s pivotal book, has thus far identified the aforementioned 216 chemicals with links to breast cancer. These chemicals are known endocrine disrupters, meaning that those exposed to them during child hood, as adults, or even in the womb through their mother’s exposure, can have resulting predictors for disease.

‘Swim, Kayak, Walk or Run: Against the Tide’ events on two Saturdays this summer will help raise funds to continue the work of deterrence—on June 22cd at DCR’s Hopkinton State Park, and August 17th at DCR’s Nickerson State Park in Brewster. Participants can choose between competitive and recreational options, in up to four of the six events.

Also, the SSI, the MBCC, and GreenCAPE will be showing “Pink Ribbons, Inc.” on May 13th, 1 pm, at Barnstable Senior Center in Hyannis, Ma. The documentary asks provocative questions about the commercialization of the breast cancer movement, and the harm caused by companies profiting from the epidemic. A discussion and Q & A with members of the organizations will follow the film.

Beyond recognizing the reasons behind the epidemic, the MBCC has labored to avert it through legislative law. It is the driving force behind bills proposed at State and Federal levels; some examples: The Safe Chemicals Act of 2011 which redresses weaknesses in the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976, while The Act to Protect Children from Bisphenol-A (BPA) is grossly overdue.

For many women, wearing make-up is a feminine pleasure; the application of which they’re likely to have learned through seminal, playful trial sessions—thus making it difficult to contemplate not wearing their lip gloss, or mascara. In addition to daily usage, these products are often an integral part of big social and professional events–imagine the emotional preparations for a wedding day or graduation. The Safe Cosmetics Act of 2011 would help make special days safer in big not-visible-to-the-eye-in-real-time ways.

The stark reality is: not all of our chemicals love us back. It is time to ascertain which relationships are toxic, and work to eradicate them. Not doing so impacts your mother your sister your wife your daughter… your teacher mentor friend neighbor–if you have eight women in your life one of them will contract this illness, which, after lung cancer, has the second highest fatality rate of cancers. Not as well known: 1 percent of all cases occur in men.

Fortunately, the myriad nature of the MBCC’s accomplishments means there’s bound to be a way to contribute that suits everyone. You can join in the Hopkinton or Brewster sport meets, or sponsor someone else’s doing so, or write your legislator, or donate to the MBCC directly, or get a haircut on May 4th or 5th at a participating salon, or break bread in support of the cause. No matter which means of helping you choose, a good start is printing a “steps to take” portable card (on the Coalition’s site), to help you vote with your wallet, and bring consumer market force to bear on undesirable products, while protecting your health in the process.

—J. Marechal

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