US Senator Frank Lautenberg's Legacy of Safer Chemicals Reform

US Senator Frank Lautenberg (right)
National Stroller Brigade, May 2012
The picture I remember from the day of the National Stroller Brigade was the grandfatherly man kneeling to greet and have a photo taken with the children who were present.  Apparently the photo I snapped was a few moments later, as he was awaiting his turn at the podium. US Senator Frank Lautenberg spoke briefly and convincingly about ensuring chemicals are safe before they get to the bodies of young children like yours and mine and the sweet children there in Washington that day.  Lautenberg authored and championed the Safe Chemicals Act, leading up to the Stroller Brigade that brought hundreds of parents, nurses and cancer survivors to Washington in May of 2012.  Then the measure passed out of a Senate committee a couple of months after the Stroller Brigade, the first such progress in updating our nation's chemical safety laws in decades.

The wide-ranging coalition working to make the Safe Chemicals Act a reality has noted with sadness and respect the passing of its champion, Senator Lautenberg.  In a media release earlier today, the group said:

The oldest member of the U.S. Senate, and the longtime champion for chemical policy reform, Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) has passed away. Andy Igrejas, who grew up in New Jersey and is executive director of Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, a coalition of 450 public health, environment, business and labor groups, issued the following statement:

"We are all deeply saddened to learn of Senator Frank Lautenberg's passing this morning. He was a genuine public health hero, and the leading champion for protecting the public from toxic chemicals. The Senator never forgot where he came from, and who he was serving. He approached health and environmental issues as a bread-and-butter concern for working families, and he was working hard on their behalf up until the end. He will be missed."

89-year-old Lautenberg was the last remaining World War II veteran to serve in the US Senate, hailed as one of the most productive leaders in Washington.  His leadership efforts are why we no longer have to inhale secondhand smoke in airplanes and why we have a right to know what pollutants are being released into our neighborhoods.  His work on the Safe Chemicals Act has been similarly groundbreaking.  Senator Lautenberg was able to announce recently that a bipartisan group of colleagues had reintroduced another version of chemical reform inspired by his original legislation.  While less clear about consumer protections than Lautenberg's original bill, it offers hope that Washington might do something to update the Toxic Substances Control Act. 

I am honored to have had the opportunity to hear Senator Lautenberg speak in person, thanks to the SCHF coalition. And I'm hopeful that others will carry on his good work to help everyday families like yours and mine.
National Stroller Brigade for Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families
May 2012