Last Sunday, I took a walk with Joan Blades, the formidable co-founder of MoveOn.org and a powerful new group called Moms Rising . It was something we'd emailed about for weeks, a single hour snatched from the jaws of overscheduledness. In between periodically swatting down my rambunctious two boys, who'd been cooped up too much of the day and were squabbling, nagging and occasionally running into the street, I heard tell of just a few of the things Joan is doing.
The main crusade on Joan's mind that day has to do with flame retardants, for reasons I soon understood. As she explained, California law actually requires furniture manufacturers to use these potentially toxic chemicals, including Chlorinated Tris, a suspected carcinogen which was removed from children's sleepwear for safety reasons 30 years ago.
One group of fire retardents, PBDEs, has been implicated as a potential contributor to a variety of neurological and developmental deficits -- and has been found to have increased 40-fold in human breast milk since the 1970s.
The good news is Moms Rising has already won a round with the powerful lobbyists promoting these dangerous chemicals in the name of fire safety. Last month, the group helped encourage national lawmakers to remove a section in the Consumer Product Safety Commission Reform Act that would have increased the quantities of toxic flame retardants in home furniture.
Meanwhile, the group is fighting hard for other long-delayed reforms including children's health insurance and family leave. As Joan said -- I'm pretty sure she said it; I was brokering a sibling peace accord at the time -- there's no reason why these issues shouldn't be non-partisan. And it's heartening to see mothers using their precious "free" time to defend our stake in the future. As soon as I find a good sitter, I mean to join them....