Maine Voices: Product safety nominee has spent career defending manufacturers of dangerous items

Portland Press Herald

There should be minimum criteria for positions meant to protect the public's health, including commitment to a federal agency's mission.

By Ross Endicott, Special to the Press Herald

SCARBOROUGH — The story of our business starts in the attic, where our 3-year-old son loved to play on the dozens of couch cushions stored there. Why so many cushions? Well, my wife and I sell furniture, and we had been testing cushion shapes and sizes for a new line of smaller sofa designs.

But then a customer called and asked if we could sell him furniture without flame retardants. It was then that we learned that dangerous brominated flame retardants were in every single one of the cushions in our foam-filled upholstery products, even though these chemicals had been proven ineffective at preventing the spread of fire.

I was quite outraged to learn there was no labeling requirement, yet the foam we were using had as much as 11 percent carcinogenic flame retardant chemicals by weight. The thought that I had let my son play on cushions containing over 30 pounds of poison was horrifying. And what about our customers? Certainly they had a right to know that toxic chemicals were being used in their mattresses, couches and chairs – furniture their family used every day.

We decided that day to sell only non-toxic furniture that wouldn’t put the health of our customers at risk. And we began talking to our representatives in Augusta and Washington.

Maine has been a leader in getting toxic chemicals out of everyday products, and last year the Legislature overwhelmingly supported a ban on the use of chemical flame retardants in upholstered furniture. In Congress, the Lautenberg Chemical Safety Act was passed almost unanimously, thanks in no small part to the leadership of Sen. Susan Collins.

Maine families and businesses need these strong, common-sense protections in state and federal law. This includes being able to trust that appointed leaders are looking out for our health and safety, not the interests of the chemical industry or the manufacturers of dangerous products. Unfortunately, recent federal nominees have left us extremely concerned.

Read the rest in the Portland Press Herald.