Summer of Courage

What a summer. Same-sex marriage was legalized, confederate flags and other symbols of racism are being removed across the country, and in the next couple of weeks Congress could change the way chemicals are regulated in the U.S.

These changes came about because of the courage of people across the nation who spoke out, took a stand, and raised their voices for equal rights. I call on Congress to invoke the courage that their constituents have displayed this summer, and for the past several decades, to make this country a more just and equitable place for all Americans:

• The courage the victim's families in South Carolina displayed when they forgave Dylann Roof for killing their loved ones;

• The courage that generations of gay activists displayed by coming out to relatives, marching in the streets, and demanding equal rights;

• The courage of Caitlyn Jenner in changing the conversation about trans rights;

• And the courage of small acts performed every day by people who imagine a better future.

I imagine a future with less cancer, but it will require courage from lawmakers to prioritize the needs of their constituents over strong-arming by the chemical industry. A new report by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) reveals that the debate over chemicals is driven by the chemical industry lobby including $1.8 million on more than 6,000 ads in the 2014 election cycle. Their influence marginalizes independent science and has contributed to the weak bill facing the Senate now.

It is up to Senators to have the courage to stand up to the chemical industry and ensure that TSCA Reform:

• Gives the EPA the resources and authority it needs to meaningfully implement and enforce the law;

• Provides an expedited process to get the worst chemicals, such as asbestos, off of the market;

• Directs the EPA to clearly prioritize public health over industry's bottom line. The EPA's regulation of chemicals should be based on improving public health as opposed to what is most "cost-effective" for industry;

• Preserves the rights of states to protect their citizens from toxic industrial chemicals; and

• Stops keeping the identity of chemicals secret so the public can make informed decisions affecting the health of themselves and their families.

Thousands of Americans have signed petitions demanding that Congress reform TSCA, and hundreds of public health and environmental groups have worked to change these laws. Everyone from nurses to firefighters have weighed in on the need to reform TSCA. Congress has a moral imperative to pass legislation that provides the public real protection from dangerous chemicals. While I understand that the legislative process always includes give and take, we must not compromise public health.

A strong TSCA bill will ensure that politicians don't have to apologize to the next generation. For lawmakers, then, courage is an insurance policy against regret. I hope Congress can invoke the courage that so many others have displayed this summer.