Local view: Young women vote, and cancer matters
Quickly, picture the typical Minnesota voter. Do you see a woman between the ages of 18 and 25? If you answered yes, then you're way ahead of the game. What do young women voters in Minnesota care about?...
Quickly, picture the typical Minnesota voter. Do you see a woman between the ages of 18 and 25? If you answered yes, then you’re way ahead of the game. What do young women voters in Minnesota care about?
Chances are cancer wasn’t the first thing that popped into your mind. And that’s fair. Minnesota’s women are diverse and driven by many values. But arguably more than any other generation of young women, we care about cancer. Why? Because we share this in common: From before birth and every day of our lives, we’ve been exposed to dozens of brain- and body-altering chemicals found in everyday products. And though breast-cancer risk increases dramatically after age 30, it’s the toxic exposures before puberty that affect breast development and increase the risk of cancer later in life.
So, yeah, I care about cancer. It’s my responsibility to make healthy choices in my diet, habits and self-care. But it’s the responsibility of my elected officials to ensure people are not routinely exposed to health risks in shampoos, shower curtains, clothes and furniture - risks we cannot detect or control and risks often introduced by the profitable chemical industry.
Take chemical flame retardants, for example. Every couch and mattress I’ve ever napped on, cuddled on or studied on probably was loaded with toxic chemicals that are released into household dust.
Today’s candidates may not have created the broken system that allows poorly regulated chemicals into our lives, but now that they know flame retardants can harm the health of infants, children and firefighters, it is their responsibility to take action.
When I vote, I will be looking for candidates who can stand up to powerful chemical industry interests and act with conviction to protect public health, whether in our nation’s capital or right here in our state. The Toxic Free Kids’ Act is an opportunity to take action this year to protect future generations.
I won’t be alone. If Tuesday’s election is anything like the one in 2012, women in Minnesota will be more likely than men to vote. More women younger than 25 are voting in Minnesota than in nearly any other state. All those voters have a one in eight chance of breast cancer in their lifetime.
Every girl in Minnesota deserves a shot at a healthy future. I hope all women voters will ask their candidates: What will you do to get toxic hazards out of our homes, our lives and our bodies?
Mahyar Sorour of Minneapolis is a young, female voter with the student organization MPIRG, or the Minnesota Public Interest Research Group (mpirg.org), which represents students at the University of Minnesota Duluth and at other campuses in the state.