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Mainers Rally for Law to Prevent Toxic Chemical Exposure and Contamination

Environmental Health Strategy Center
04.17.2019
Category:
News Releases

LD 1433, The Safe Food Packaging Act, would phase out use of toxic PFAS and phthalates in food packaging

AUGUSTA, Maine, April 17, 2019—Maine moms and dads, educators and students, health professionals, and members of the state’s farming, restaurant, and faith communities rallied at the State House today to support the only bill now before the Maine Legislature that addresses toxic chemicals in Maine food.

The Environment and Natural Resources Committee conducted a hearing for LD 1433, The Safe Food Packaging Act, which would phase out PFAS chemicals (perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances) as well as phthalates (THAL-eights) from food packaging, to prevent human exposure to them and the contamination of soil, groundwater, and food.

PFAS persist in human bodies and the environment for years and even decades. They are so ubiquitous that over 97 percent of Americans have PFAS in their bloodstream—including newborn babies.

State and national news outlets have reported that toxic PFAS chemicals contaminated drinking water, milk, and farm fields on an Arundel, Maine dairy farm. Nationally, PFAS contamination of drinking water is a growing concern.

“We have the opportunity to make a small step towards keeping more of these ‘forever chemicals’ out of our environment by phasing out their use over time without putting an undue burden on food packagers and manufacturers,” said the bill’s cosponsor, Rep. Jessica Fay (D-Raymond).

LD 1433, also sponsored by Rep. Robert Foley (R-Wells), amends Maine’s current Toxics in Packaging Law to include phthalates if the manufacturer has intentionally introduced them. It also allows the state to prohibit the sale of food packaging with PFAS, if a safer alternative is available, and to name other “chemicals of concern.”

PFAS are used to make nonstick coatings, microwave popcorn bags and fast food wrappers, and they also are found in stain-resistant and waterproof coatings on carpeting, furniture, and clothing as well as in some firefighting foams and gear. Exposure to them increases the risk of some cancers, may lower a woman’s chance of getting pregnant, and has been associated with liver problems and increased cholesterol levels.

Phthalates are endocrine disruptors that change the way hormones work. Pregnant women, babies, and toddlers are most at risk, and boys may suffer an increased risk of birth defects associated with testicular cancer, prostate cancer, or difficulty in fathering a child. Early life exposure to phthalates has also been linked to ADHD diagnoses and harm to brain development in children.

Phthalates easily migrate into food, yet these chemicals are often added to plastics, rubber, inks, sealants, and other industrial materials used throughout the U.S. food system.

Passing legislation not only will ensure food on our shelves is in safer packaging, it also will better protect our environment, because toxic chemicals can enter the environment and drinking water supply when packaging is composted or landfilled.

Testimony for today’s hearing before the Environment and Natural Resources Committee includes these quotes:

Dr. Sydney R. Sewall, MD MPH​, ​Maine Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics​, and Maine Chapter Physicians for Social Responsibility​: “LD 1433 is a reasonable step to reducing the health risks from insufficiently tested chemicals with known effects on developmental, endocrine and immune processes. While the use of these substances may add some convenience through their magical properties, alternatives can get the job done almost as well. How important is it to have less popcorn stick to the side of the bag?”

​Dr. Gail Carlson, PhD, Assistant Professor, Colby College: ​The common sense approach to protect public health is to ban food packaging that contains any of these chemicals​. . . . ​History tells us that this is the right approach, and where better to enact this restriction than in Maine, which is a national leader in safer chemicals policies.  

Sarah K. Lakeman, Sustainable Maine Project Director, Natural Resources Council of Maine: “As composting becomes more popular, people may be placing PFAS-coated paper foodware in their compost bin and then applying the finished compost on soil used to grow food. This also allows for another way for PFAS to be present on farming operations, and the run-off from the land could contaminate our water supply.”

Fred Stone, owner of Stoneridge Farms, in Arundel: “Our farm was ruined by contamination from PFAS chemicals. That’s why I am supporting LD 1433, because I want to help make sure that no other farmers have to go through what my family has over the past few years.”

David Levi, chef and owner, Vinland restaurant, Portland: “Maine’s restaurants and food scene are a vital part of the state’s economy. Keeping these toxic chemicals out of food packaging where it can contaminate food will bolster confidence in the quality of the food we grow, raise, and serve in Maine.”

Kate Manahan, mom and clinical social worker, Kennebunk: “My own family was exposed to PFAS-contaminated water for four years in Kennebunk. And I can tell you, as a parent, I would much prefer to have a less convenient pizza box than compromise my children’s health by exposing them to needless PFAS and phthalates from food packaging.”

Rev. Richard L. Killmer, on behalf of the Maine Council of Churches: “State governments have a responsibility to protect the people of the state. We in the faith community affirm that task and view it as paralleling the work of God.”

Angelica Katz, Director of Public Policy, Planned Parenthood Maine: “As a mission driven healthcare provider, our reasons for supporting LD 1433 are simple—this legislation would remove harmful industrial chemicals from leaching into our environment and put in place much needed restrictions to protect the health and well-being of our patients and their families.”

Sarah Woodbury, State Advocacy Director, Environmental Health Strategy Center: “When we have classes of chemicals, like PFAS and phthalates, that have clear structural similarities that create persistence or similar mechanisms for harm, we need to treat them as a group to avoid repeatedly substituting and poisoning generation after generation as we slowly build the evidence. Industry will argue that the newer ‘short chain’ version of these chemicals are safe but their own research refutes this. Not only that, they do not even share all their research with the FDA.”

The Environmental Health Strategy Center is a Maine-based nonprofit organization that works for a world where all people are healthy and thriving in a safe environment. Everyone deserves access to safe food and drinking water, and toxic-free, climate-friendly products. Visit www.ourhealthyfuture.org for more.

 

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