From Lauren Hierl, Vermont Conservation Voters’ political director

The health of our children is at stake. That may sound hyperbolic, but the evidence is clear – despite many advancements in the field of children’s environmental health, today’s children face an epidemic of illness and chronic diseases linked to environmental exposures and our changing climate.

As a parent of young children, these issues are front of mind for me. From wondering what chemicals they’re being exposed to from our water, food, toys, shampoos, and more – to watching parents in the Bennington area struggle to understand the impacts their children will endure from high levels of PFOA contamination in their water and blood. It’s clear that Vermont communities need better protection from toxic chemicals. There is an ongoing and urgent need to put the health of children at the forefront of decision-making in Vermont.

We were pleased to see Governor Phil Scott declare October 12th “Children’s Environmental Health Day” as part of a national effort to raise awareness about the importance of clean air and water and safe food and consumer products to children’s health and development. But what Vermont families need now is more than another proclamation, we need action.

Last legislative session Vermont Conservation Voters worked with partners to help advance a toxic chemical reform bill through the Legislature, but it wasn’t able to make it all the way through to final passage before the end of the 2017 session. That bill – S.103 – will be taken up by senators when they return to Montpelier in January.

S.103 is common sense toxic chemical reform that is long overdue. While the state’s response to the Bennington PFOA disaster – immediately providing safe drinking water and coming to an agreement to extend public drinking water supplies – is laudable, what Vermonters need goes well beyond a good response after tragedy strikes. We need real progress on getting toxic chemicals out of our environment and homes to begin with.

Legislation pending before our senators, S.103, will take several important steps to reduce Vermonters – and especially our children’s – exposure to toxic chemicals. The bill will improve the program that requires companies to report if they’re using some of the worst of the worst chemicals in children’s products they’re selling in the state. It also gives the Commissioner of Health more tools to get toxic chemicals out of our kids’ products altogether. Further, the legislation also requires testing of new drinking water wells for certain toxic contaminants, so families can be sure their water is healthy and safe.

We urge Governor Scott to live up to the language in his Children’s Environmental Health Day proclamation, where he stated we should “seek improved protections for children” and that “together, we can safeguard the health, safety and wellbeing of young Vermonters.” We look forward to working together with the Scott administration and legislators to secure swift passage and enactment of S.103 and take other important steps to better protect our children from toxic chemicals.

As published by Rutland Herald.