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Sharing My Own Story

12.10.2018

I’m Nika Beauchamp, and I manage communications at the Environmental Health Strategy Center. My coworkers and I work hard—and you make our work possible.

To do my job well, I closely follow and share news about toxic chemicals and the people whose health and lives they wreck. I feel strongly about keeping you up-to-date on the flood of strong research and even tragedies that show why your support is so important.

This year, I’ve been doing my job while pregnant for the first time. My baby daughter is due this month, and my husband Scott and I are over-the-moon excited!

Yet, ever since our good news sunk in a few months ago, I have also felt fearful about something you and I both know is true: the strongest science is showing my baby is being exposed to toxic chemicals even before she is born, and there could be lifelong consequences.

Expensive and Crazy

Exposures to toxics in early development—during pregnancy and in the first years after birth—are exceptionally dangerous. The delicate, developing bodies of children are especially prone to harm from toxic chemicals linked to disability and disease.

That’s why, for months, I’ve been preoccupied with this question: How can I protect my baby from the silent epidemic of toxic chemicals that seem to lurk everywhere?

The first thing I did was switch out all of my cosmetics for brands that were tested by third parties and certified toxic-free. Then I threw out all of our household cleaning products, and bought eco-friendly versions. They cost more.

Next, I threw out our boxes of mac and cheese, to avoid eating plasticizer chemical phthalates (THAL-eights) that lab testing has discovered in cheese powder. Studies link phthalates to asthma, learning disabilities, cancer, and reproductive abnormalities with lifelong repercussions. They can harm babies in the womb.

I began to refuse store receipts, to avoid Bisphenol-A (BPA) used in inks, because my skin will absorb them into my bloodstream, where these toxic chemicals can travel to my baby. BPA is linked to cancer, learning disabilities, obesity, and other health problems.

And then my husband and I spent a good-sized chunk of our savings on a new, flame retardant-free sofa. When I’m sitting on the couch nursing our baby, and when she’s old enough to sit and play on it, we don’t want her exposed to the toxic dust of chemical flame retardants linked to learning disabilities and birth defects.

Finally, I continue to spend hours scouring the web to try to confirm that the baby products we’re buying are free of toxic flame retardants and other dangerous chemicals.

Does it all sound expensive and crazy-making? Because that’s exactly what it is.

Out of My Control

As someone who supports our work for safe food, drinking water, and products, you know my “crazy” was not really because of the work I did and the hours and money I spent. 

I’m frustrated and fearful because as much as I want to, I can’t fully protect myself or my child from toxic chemicals. Phthalates, BPA, and dangerous perfluorinated chemicals known as PFAS are in products from food packaging to flooring. And while I replaced our couch to avoid flame retardants, they’re in car upholstery and older upholstered furniture. There’s such a long list of products exposing us to toxic chemicals, every day.

What’s really crazy is the broken system for protecting Americans from toxic chemicals. We have laws—not nearly strong enough—and an Environmental Protection Agency that’s supposed to do the job of protecting our health. But our current EPA acts more concerned with protecting the chemical and oil industries where powerful EPA administrators launched their careers.

It makes me so angry. Why is the chemical industry allowed to make billions of dollars off of products that can hurt me and my baby and millions of other babies and children?

Just this week, I turned on my computer to find an article reporting that at birth, all newborn babies—at least in the developed world—have more than 100 industrial chemicals in their bloodstreams, exposed in the womb. Says the article’s author, Dr. R. Thomas Zoeller, from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, “Humans are born pre-polluted.”

It’s even worse for those less privileged than I am; studies repeatedly show that poor families and families of color have the highest body burdens of toxic chemicals.

Now, It’s Up to You

I’m going on maternity leave very soon, to care for my precious baby daughter and establish our new family.

Can I count on you, while I’m away? People like you are the reason we’re making progress to get the most dangerous toxic chemicals out of the marketplace. But you’ve got to do more, fast.

Please make a gift to ramp up the critical changes we need to protect babies, children, and all of us. You can help us win victories for health in Maine, with new legislation to keep toxic chemicals out of food, and promote safer, biobased chemicals and products. You can help us win victories in the marketplace, organizing consumers to pressure major food companies to keep toxic chemicals out of the food we eat. You can help us fight in the courts to make the EPA fulfill its mandate to protect public health. We need YOU to do this work.

Please, please make the most generous gift you can to this work. You can be the reason that someday, in a fair and toxic-free future, moms like me will be able to rest, knowing that their beautiful children are safe and protected from dangerous toxic chemicals.