For today, a stalemate with the chemical industry

Endocrinologist Dr. Jenny Carwile testifies in support of LD 948

We’re very proud of our state’s chemical safety law, the Kid Safe Products Act. We worked hard with parents, scientists, coalition partners and legislators from both sides of the aisle to get it passed in 2008, and to successfully protect the law from industry-led attacks in 2011. If you take a look around the country, you’ll find that Maine is just one of a small handful states with their own science-based systems to identify the worst chemicals in consumer products and take action to protect vulnerable populations from exposure.

In many ways, Maine has the broadest authority to take action on toxic chemicals compared with any other state law. We have the most tools in our toolbox, if you will.

Our toolbox includes authority to require manufacturers to publicly report which of their products contain a toxic chemical, and whether there are safer substitutes available in the marketplace. The state can also prohibit the sale of products with a toxic chemical in Maine, if safe and affordable alternatives exist. These tools have the potential power to protect kids from the worst of the worst chemicals that are linked to cancer, asthma, learning disabilities, and reproductive harm. 

Today, our challenge is that this great set of tools are too often being kept locked away in their box. Even though our law contains strong authority to act, the state is not required to take any action.

Tired of waiting around for something to happen in 2012, we forced the Maine Department of Environmental Protection by a citizen petition to take action on BPA in baby food and infant formula, leading to a successful phase-out of BPA in these products. Then we went back to waiting.

In 2014, we took the initiative yet again, bringing another citizen petition before the Maine DEP a rule to require manufacturers to report their use of phthalates, the toxic hormone-disrupting chemicals found in soft plastics and personal care products. The good news is that we heard back from the DEP that they would consider adopting our rule, but but the bad news is that the DEP will water down the rule to largely exclude products that are sources of exposure for pregnant women (the most damning evidence on harmful health effects from phthalates has to do with prenatal exposure.)

Something has to be done to ensure that the tools come out of their box often enough to make a real difference for Maine kids.

This year, we worked with Representative Sara Gideon of Freeport to introduce a bill that would make sure that the Kid Safe Products Act would be implemented to truly protect kids and pregnant women from toxic chemicals in consumer products – LD 948. Over 30 people came to the State House to speak passionately about the need for action – from a mom who’s son was born with a common birth defect in male genitalia associated with phthalates, to several doctors and a small business owner. 

LD 948 won’t be moving forward this year. In exchange, we managed to hold back an egregious attack on the law by the chemical industry lobby, which once again had a proposal to gut the law’s authority. For now, we're keeping our toolbox full of strong authority to act. But its still up to the LePage Administration to decide to use those tools to the benefit of Maine kids and other vulnerable populations.

Our work here isn’t done. For today, we’ll keep watching to see whether the Maine DEP will use any of these tools to help protect Maine families from harmful exposure.