Paul Austin

Paul Austin is the director of Conservation Minnesota, a statewide non-profit. In that role, he gets to hear and share Minnesotan’s stories about our lakes, lands and way of life. Paul’s past lives include election as a small town mayor, serving at the US Agency for International Development, and managing a small marketing firm. He lives in Minneapolis with his wife, two small children and one very large dog.

Lawmakers: Don't Let This Chance to Protect Children Slip Away

Posted by: Paul Austin Updated: May 6, 2014 - 9:02 AM

I am just one of the growing number of Minnesota parents whose children face learning and social challenges every day.  My son Sammy was diagnosed with Autism before his second birthday.  Today he is six and about to finish kindergarten.  He has to work very hard at making friends, but he is determined.  My wife Jenny and I are determined to help him.

Like all parents, our ability to make decisions about our son's health depends on having good information.  Each day, scientists are finding links between prenatal and childhood exposure to toxic chemicals and a host of conditions that include autism, learning disabilities, infertility and cancers.  The Minnesota Department of Health has developed a list of the worst nine of these chemicals that includes things like lead, cadmium, and formaldehyde.  The Toxic Free Kids Act would require the makers of children's toys, clothing and bath products to report if they contain any of the chemicals on this list.

It seems obvious that health officials and parents should have a right to know if products being marketed for our children contain these toxic chemicals.  But the fact that the need for a law is obvious, doesn't make it easy to pass.  Corporate lobbyists are pushing industry backed "compromise" proposals that would make it impossible for parents to ever know if the products we buy for our kids contain toxic chemicals.

Thanks to the determination of Rep. Ryan Winkler, Rep. Jean Wagenius, and Speaker Paul Thissen, a strong version of the Toxic Free Kids Act has passed the house and is awaiting conference committee action.  If members of the Minnesota Senate will stand with parents across the state by voting "yes", the Toxic Free Kids Act could be law by the end of the week.  That is by far the best Mother's Day gift our state could deliver.

If you would like to learn more and show your support for the Toxic Free Kids Act, click here.

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