June 20, 2018 Celeste Monforton, DrPH, MPH 0Comment

The public health community is mourning the death of Andy Igrejas, 47.  He was the national campaign director and executive director of Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families (SCHF), a coalition of more than 450 organizations that are committed to policy reforms to address toxic chemical exposures in homes, schools, workplaces, and the environment.  Igrejas died on June 16 in Washington, DC from glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer.

Linda Reinstein, co-founder of the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization, worked closely with Andy to push for meaningful reform to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). She said, “Andy was an amazing friend, colleague, and committed activist.  At times we faced insurmountable challenges, but with Andy’s leadership, I knew our mission and vision for TSCA reform would always succeed.”  Improvements to TSCA became law in 2016.

“Andy was good to the core and that goodness emanated from him.  It was impossible to not like Andy.  You truly couldn’t meet someone kinder or more committed to being a force for good in this world.  My heart is truly broken at this loss,” Reinstein told me.

Igrejas’ colleagues at SCHF’s are paying tribute to Igrejas by sharing professional memories:

“Andy had that rare ability to focus on substance while standing on principle.  He would dive deep into the policy weeds in defense of the highest achievable policy objectives.  Although he repeatedly shook off conventional political wisdom, the opposition never succeeded in marginalizing him.

When the chemical industry hijacked the end of a ten-year legislative process, he bridged the fractious confusion with a dazzling defense that turned catastrophe into the best possible reform that could pass under the circumstances.  He directly wrung more health-protective concessions even up through the final hours of negotiations.”

And personal ones:

“His humor was infectious, and no one escaped his wit.  Both friend and foe were subject to his endless, spontaneous impersonations.  Woven into any potential conversation, Andy would flawlessly adopt the vocal inflections and physical mannerisms of his subject, and carry on in full character as he imagined out loud what the other would say in that situation.”

Igrejas was a native of Bloomfield, NJ.  As a college student at Rutgers, he worked with the New Jersey Public Interest Research Group (NJPIRG) and was later hired by NJPIRG. He helped secure passage of laws promoting recycling and public transportation.

In March 2018, Congressman Frank Pallone (D-NJ) honored Andy Igrejas with a statement that is now forever preserved in the Congressional Record.  Recalling Igrejas’ role in passage of amendments to TSCA, Pallone said:

“Andy’s work kept the interest in TSCA reform alive when negotiating a deal seemed impossible. Andy’s appreciation for the role of entrepreneurship and the private sector in creating positive social change led to the coalition’s decision to launch Mind the Store, an initiative challenging the nation’s largest retailers to restrict hazardous chemicals in their supply chains. It was that effort at the retail level, along with legislative efforts in the states, which kept industry at the table pursuing a comprehensive federal program.”

Pallone added:

“I want to thank Andy for his bold thinking, tireless efforts, and strategic counsel to me and my staff, without which many of the public health and environmental improvements in the Lautenberg TSCA reform law would not have been possible.”

Over the years, I saw Andy Igrejas in action during stakeholder meetings with government officials, in coalition workgroups, and at congressional hearings.  He was a skilled communicator who had deep subject matter expertise.  He was not the least bit arrogant or pretentious.

Andy had battle scars from the TSCA reform fight.  Once the law was passed in June 2016, Andy welcome those of us without the battle wounds to better understand the law.  Andy set a big table with empty seats for me and the other late comers. He was generous sharing his profound knowledge of the law and what will be necessary for it to meet its public health potential. I’m grateful I had a chance to sit at that table and learn from him.

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