Nurses Rally for Prevention

Ohio RN Karen Towne, Ohio RN Lauren Mente,
Raenell Nagel of Ohio Environmental Council
America's nurses are speaking up for patients, calling for a healthier world for us all. Dozens of registered nurses joined parents and other advocates for the recent National Stroller Brigade for Safer Chemicals. At the rally on the US Capitol lawn, nurses held signs, listened to speakers and marched on behalf of our future.

Registered nurse Ann Darwicki of the Delaware Nurses Association is concerned that unborn children are exposed to toxins in the womb -- the new reality documented by the government's own so-called body burden studies.  "We have been advocating for chemical policy change and reform in our state for the past seven years, and the body burden studies and the newborns being born polluted with 200 chemicals detected in their cord blood at birth speaks for itself," shared Darwicki, also chair of the ad hoc committee called Nurses Healing Our Planet, "I'm just appalled and the time for change has long passed and we deserve to have clean products, we deserve to know what is in them and how we can avoid them and make smarter choices."
Delaware RN Ann Darwicki, Delaware RN  Karen Andrea

The American Nurses Association and more than 200 medical, education, parent and consumer groups have joined forces for the Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families initiative.  It brings together hundreds of thousands of people across the country for the common cause of protecting families through common sense chemical reform.  Science and policy experts say consumers are exposed to thousands of substances in everyday products that are virtually untested for safety.  

Registered Nurse Karen Andrea of Delaware can relate to the young women she met at the rally, those concerned about fertility and healthy pregnancies.  "I share their concern."  Andrea remembers the uncertainty of her earlier pregnancy, "from the time they dusted the crops when I was just slightly pregnant with my younger son, and I sweated through the entire pregnancy wondering if the stuff they were spraying would affect him."  Marchers like Andrea are hopeful that reform can at least clear up some of the toxins parents might be bringing into their home environment.

Nurse practitioner Susan Gately serves a rural Arkansas community that includes many with low incomes, and  she's concerned some of her patients don't have access to the latest online health information about   environmental toxins.  She's concerned about the young people coming in with cancer.  "I'm seeing a big increase in cancer rates, which is surprising to me.  Especially cancers that we normally don't see in younger people.  For example, kidney cancers.  I have a number of 30-something aged people that have kidney cancers, and that's unusual in that age group."  Gately says it's hard to prevent exposure to the many chemicals that are part of our homes and everyday lives.

Nurse-midwife Katie Huffling helped organize nurses from at least eleven different states who traveled to Washington for the rally.  Huffling explained why she thinks nurses are passionate about safer chemicals.  "We are on the front lines -- we see more children and adults being diagnosed with asthma, more children with cancer, more children with autism and ADHD, more women with breast cancer and infertility issues, and rising rates of chronic diseases such as type II diabetes and obesity.  While many of the illnesses are treatable, we would much rather prevent these diseases from happening in the first place.  It seems like every day a new study comes out linking the rising rates of these diseases with environmental exposures to toxic chemicals."

Huffling is Director of Programs for the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments, in Maryland.  She says nurses themselves tend to have high rates of asthma, yet another reason for her colleagues to be concerned about what both they and their patients are exposed to.
Safer Chemicals' Andy Igrejas Introduces Speakers at
National Stroller Brigade
Speaking at the Washington rally before the crowd of nurses, moms and national media, Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families' Andy Igrejas acknowledged the concerns that had brought everyone together, "Exposure to toxic chemicals, sometimes even in very small amounts, very early in life, is contributing to the burden of chronic disease and illness that millions of Americans are feeling in their families right now.  It is that link to health that is the reason every major health organization has endorsed our call for reform and it is also the link that gives this issue great moral urgency."

Nurses are lending their voices to this call for Congress to pass the Safe Chemicals Act.  After Huffling and other Maryland nurses met with Senator Ben Cardin's office, they got word that Cardin would be signing on as a co-sponsor of the legislation.

What is the precautionary principle?