Chicago Tribune's Pulitzer Prize-nominated, expose on the use of flame retardants in furniture and mattresses, you've got to watch an HBO documentary film about it. It should be required viewing for any voting American. Why's that?
Just as the above graphic highlights, the film shows how deception by industry, which affects every single American, can effectively be challenged by a coalition of ordinary citizens. One of the Tribune writers, Michael Hawthorne, was the first major-market writer to cover coal tar sealer pollution in 2011 and is still available at this link.
While flame retardants may seem dramatically different than toxic pavement products, they are actually similar. Both are the result of irresponsible government oversight which relegates us to what the movie says is "the largest uncontrollable chemical experiment on the American people." Both have been cast into use with little or no knowledge of their impact on human health. And both are represented by industries that focus on perpetuating deception instead of bringing non-toxic products to market.
One of the highlights for me was when Senator Barbara Boxer asked industry representatives for a "yes or no answer" to the following question: Do you think that chemicals should be tested for their effects on pregnant women and children before being put into common use by industry?" One industry spokesman could not muster an answer to that question because it would expose the tragic reality of this going on every day in the US.
Personally I could relate to the statement by the scientist, Dr. Arlene Blum, who said she was afraid that she might go to her grave as being the person at the party who had a passion that she always wanted to tell people at her own social peril. Thanks to Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families for the week of free viewing which has unfortunately expired.
Contrasts and comparisons abound, but overall, I would say that the movement to ban coal tar sealers is less mature in terms of building a coalition and may not have similar characters. Keep in mind this is a marathon, not a sprint.
Both of these movements would not be necessary with a proper reform of the Toxic Substances Control Act, but until that changes we will continue to carve out progress toward a better future for all of us.