Posted by: Chloe Schwabe | November 19, 2010

Chemicals and Disabilities

 This week I was in Harrisuburg, Pennsylvania to speak with the Pennsylvania Council of Churches about environmental health. Afterwards, I spoke with Reverend Nancy Firestone who I had met two years ago at the Mindful Living Conference we held in Minnesota. She suffers from a chemical disability. The chemicals in the church where she served and in the water supply of her parsonage made her ill. As a result she eventually had to give up her church and has to be mindful of fragrances and other chemicals around her.

Yet Reverend Firestone inspires me in my daily ministry to change our chemical policies. She has transformed her illness into a ministry by educating others, developing an American Lung Association Health House, and calling for chemical policy reform so that we can all live in healthier environments.

Just as chemicals can cause disabilities, they can also contribute to other health conditions for people living with disabilities. People with disabilities spend more time indoors and may not be able to help themselves out of situations in which they are being exposed to toxic chemicals. One source of exposure indoors come from house dust. A number of chemicals, such as phthalates (An endocrine disruptor linked to cancer, type II diabetes, early puberty in girls and reproductive birth defects in baby boys among other things. It is found in fragrances and some PVC products) and brominated flame retardants (Found in couches, textiles, and electronics. They are persistent bioaccumulative and toxic. Linked to thyroid cancer and developmental disabilities) can migrate into household dust. For people who spend over 90% of their days indoors, indoor air quality is really important for general health.

In order to educate people of faith who are close to those with intellectual and developmental disabilities or who themselves may have IDDs, we teamed up with the American Association for Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Religion and Spirituality Division to develop a two-page fact sheet on the issue. Download it here to learn more.

Through education and learning about the ways we can support people with disabilities to avoid toxic exposures, we can both prevent some disabilities and create healthier environments for all God’s children to share their gifts.

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