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Environmental Justice and Reproductive Justice: What’s the Connection?

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November 30, 2012

Last Friday, I had the opportunity of attending the One Voice Summit hosted by Advocates for Youth, SIECUS , and the Sierra Club. The panels and the multitude of discussions tied reproductive and environmental justice together in very intricate ways. One of the topics that I believe was especially interesting and relevant was about toxins in the environment panel. It tied products young people use every day and the harmful toxins that may be in them. What made me initially want to write about this is because toxic substances are in everything around us from our chap sticks, to our lotions, our perfumes, and even the receipts we get any time we shop. Seeing the connection with this made me really uncomfortable because I felt overwhelming dread that I really couldn’t escape them.

What really made me stand up and take notice was that it seemed that all these toxins were having affects on our bodies’ right under our noses. This was really discouraging because many of them could be hindering our reproductive health every time we come into contact with them and we wouldn’t even know it!  According to Toxic Zombie, the toolkit created by the Reproductive Health Technologies Project (RHTP), there are between 80-85,000 chemicals used in everyday products, but only 200 have been tested for safety. With numbers like that I don’t know why we aren’t sick all of the time. Then I thought about how diseases like cervical cancer, ovarian cysts, and endometriosis were happening more and more in young women. So, what can we do?

During this panel we had the opportunity to speak with three amazing women battling this issue and creating change in their respective organizations. Jalonne White-Newsome spoke about simple ways not to put yourself at risk including not taking receipts which commonly contain BPA, and not heating your food in plastic containers which might leech chemicals into your food. We also heard from Kimberly Inez McGuire from the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health who discussed how these toxic chemicals were affecting low income individuals and communities of color. She discussed how these women seemed to be most affected because they were in careers that increased their exposure and frequency to the contaminants. Women farm workers, nail technicians, and domestic and hospitality workers are constantly breathing in these chemicals, touching them, and then carrying the residue in their clothes and on their skin back to their homes where they often have young children.

Sara Alad from RHTP, also discussed how contacting our representatives, informing our peers and educating the community at large we can really help those women that are otherwise disenfranchised because of their type of employment. I feel that education like this should be spread like wildfire. I urge all that read this to get up and do something! Now I don’t mean throw everything out that has an ingredient you can’t pronounce because you’d probably have nothing left. But slowly and surely if you stop taking receipts, and cut down the amounts of products you use with harmful ingredients you can make a difference and protect your precious reproductive system from the Toxic Zombies lurking and waiting to harm you. Be informed and don’t just sit there, start doing something! Your vagina will thank you for it! 😉

Go here to find more information from the EPA on the environment and women’s health.

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