Let Your Voice Be Heard

Have you ever testified in front of legislators for a cause in which you believe? I have, and I think most testifiers would agree this is not a pleasant experience. In addition to dedicating a significant amount of time becoming well-versed on the proposed legislation, you must prepare your speech and practice answering unanticipated questions lest skeptical legislators pick on you. (Another unpleasantry is the time spent waiting for your turn to speak.)  Typically, the people speaking against everyday folks’ concerns are lobbyists who are paid to defend their employers or their clients.  In other words, a paid professional vs. a concerned (and unpaid) citizen.

I believe it was 2009 when I testified in support of a bill to ban phthalates in personal care products in Hartford, Connecticut. Each speaker had 1 minute and 30 seconds to speak. I recall a legislator making a joke at my expense as I pulled six bottles- 3 filled with phthalate-laden shampoo, hand soap and baby lotion and their non-toxic counterparts- out of a brown paper bag and placed them on the table. “She already wasted 20 seconds”, wisecracked one man in the committee and everyone laughed.

I wasn’t shaken as much as I was incredulous that the legislators weren’t interested in listening to me. Thankfully two committee members, the chairman (whose name I can’t recall) and Terrie Wood, a state representative from my hometown of Darien, respectfully listened. That day they learned that despite the recent ban on phthalates in toys, personal care products were an even greater source of exposure of this hormone disrupting chemical.

I tell this story not to be a hero, but to say that when you cast your vote tomorrow, take the time to choose candidates who genuinely care about their constituents.  You have the right to be respectfully listened to, especially by the elected officials who represent you. And given the fact that ten years later, phthalates are still in personal care products we use every day, it’s nice to know you can also vote with your dollars for safe and effective alternatives.


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