'National Stroller Brigade' Descends on U.S. Capitol
Today several hundred moms, nurses and cancer survivors gathered at the U.S. Capitol to demand action on toxic chemicals. The group rallied in support of Sen. Frank Lautenberg’s (D-NJ) Safe Chemicals Act, a bill to overhaul antiquated laws governing toxic chemicals.
“If there is one overwhelming message from years of science, it’s that exposure to toxic chemicals early in our lives is responsible for some of the cancer, infertility and other health problems that affect millions of Americans,” said Andy Igrejas of Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families. “However, Congress has been paralyzed. We’re here to break the gridlock and demand common sense limits on toxic chemicals.”
The National Stroller Brigade builds on 30 local events in support of the Safe Chemicals Act, in locations as diverse as Little Rock and Omaha. Hundreds of moms—many with children in tow—flew or bused into Washington to deliver 130,000 petition signatures to their senators.
Moms turned out in large numbers in response to an investigative series by the Chicago Tribune, which exposed the chemical industry’s deceptive lobbying tactics to protect toxic chemicals. The moms divided up by state to deliver the thousands of petition signatures asking their senators to support the Safe Chemicals Act.
Polly Schlaff, a mother of three boys and a widow, told her compelling story about losing her high-school sweetheart to cancer at the age of 35. “My husband’s cancer had no genetic links, a fact both reassuring and troubling to a single mother bent on protecting her children from illness. No genetic flaw predisposes my sons to Ewing’s sarcoma, yet every day they, along with millions of other American children, are exposed to known and suspected carcinogens. This is unacceptable,” she said. Polly is a resident of Western Michigan and planned to visit Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) in the afternoon.
Matthew Zachary, a young adult cancer survivor and Founder of Stupid Cancer also joined the Brigade, “I am here so that no young adult has to go through what I went through. The feelings of isolation, fear and stigma are something no child should face, and if there is an opportunity to prevent future cases of cancer, we must.”
Last year, Jessica Alba joined leading public health experts on Capitol Hill to ask key Members of Congress to co-sponsor the Safe Chemicals Act, and now she sends her support to today’s event. Alba, an entrepreneur, actress, and Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families spokesperson said, “I hear stories from parents across the country every day—they are frustrated with the lack of transparency and honesty about the safety of the chemicals in consumer products. I stand in support of the parents in Washington asking for stronger laws that protect our babies. We deserve the peace of mind of safe and healthy products.”
The event shows the diverse support for the Safe Chemicals Act, bringing together people from more than 30 states and with varied political backgrounds. The Safe Chemicals Act is awaiting a vote in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. Participants at today’s event hope to add urgency and pressure to this pending vote.
“It’s shocking that toxic chemicals end up in everyday consumer products, and in our bodies, without anyone proving that they are safe. The stroller brigade is carrying an important message to Congress that we're not going to stand by and let our kids continue to be exposed to chemicals that make them sick. Concerned moms are the best weapons we have in this fight. With their help, I will keep advancing the Safe Chemicals Act to reform our broken toxic chemical laws and provide a healthier future for our families," said U.S. Senator Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ).
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By Aaron W Hunter
A chance discovery of a beautifully preserved fossil in the desert landscape of Morocco has solved one of the great mysteries of biology and paleontology: how starfish evolved their arms.
The Pompeii of palaeontology. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<h2></h2><p>Although starfish might appear very robust animals, they are typically made up of lots of hard parts attached by ligaments and soft tissue which, upon death, quickly degrade. This means we rely on places like the Fezouata formations to provide snapshots of their evolution.</p><p>The starfish fossil record is patchy, especially at the critical time when many of these animal groups first appeared. Sorting out how each of the various types of ancient starfish relate to each other is like putting a puzzle together when many of the parts are missing.</p><h2>The Oldest Starfish</h2><p><em><a href="https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/216101v1.full.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Cantabrigiaster</a></em> is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. It was discovered in 2003, but it has taken over 17 years to work out its true significance.</p><p>What makes <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> unique is that it lacks almost all the characteristics we find in brittle stars and starfish.</p><p>Starfish and brittle stars belong to the family Asterozoa. Their ancestors, the Somasteroids were especially fragile - before <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> we only had a handful of specimens. The celebrated Moroccan paleontologist Mohamed <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.palaeo.2016.06.041" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Ben Moula</a> and his local team was instrumental in discovering <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0031018216302334?via%3Dihub" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">these amazing fossils</a> near the town of Zagora, in Morocco.</p><h2>The Breakthrough</h2><p>Our breakthrough moment came when I compared the arms of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> with those of modern sea lilles, filter feeders with long feathery arms that tend to be attached to the sea floor by a stem or stalk.</p><p>The striking similarity between these modern filter feeders and the ancient starfish led our team from the University of Cambridge and Harvard University to create a new analysis. We applied a biological model to the features of all the current early Asterozoa fossils in existence, along with a sample of their closest relatives.</p>
Cantabrigiaster is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<p>Our results demonstrate <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> is the most primitive of all the Asterozoa, and most likely evolved from ancient animals called crinoids that lived 250 million years before dinosaurs. The five arms of starfish are a relic left over from these ancestors. In the case of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em>, and its starfish descendants, it evolved by flipping upside-down so its arms are face down on the sediment to feed.</p><p>Although we sampled a relatively small numbers of those ancestors, one of the unexpected outcomes was it provided an idea of how they could be related to each other. Paleontologists studying echinoderms are often lost in detail as all the different groups are so radically different from each other, so it is hard to tell which evolved first.</p>
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