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Maine Legislature Passes Kid-Safe Products Bill

Overwhelming Support for Chemical Policy April 16, 2008

Lawmakers in the Maine House and Senate have voted overwhelmingly in support of LD 2048, a bill aimed at protecting children’s health from unnecessary and dangerous chemicals in everyday consumer products. The bill requires Maine to adopt a list of priority chemicals of high concern, forces manufacturers to disclose the toxic chemicals they add to products, and authorizes the state to require safer alternatives.

“This is huge victory for children’s health. The vote shows the overwhelming public support for safe products completely free of harmful chemicals,” said Mike Belliveau, Executive Director of the Environmental Health Strategy Center, a Maine based public health organization. “There have been gaping holes in our laws that allow for the use of toxic chemicals in everything from rubber duckies to plastic baby bottles. Maine is now filling those gaps to ensure all of our products are safe for our children.”

LD 2048, sponsored by House Majority Leader Hannah Pingree, continues Maine’s national leadership on safer chemicals, building on past success in phasing out mercury, arsenic and toxic fire retardants in consumer products. By directing the State to require safer alternatives to chemicals that are inherently harmful, LD 2048 rejects chemical industry attempts to defend “acceptable risk” levels for toxic chemicals. Under the bill’s hazard-based approach, if a chemical can harm the health of children and there is a safer alternative available, the hazardous chemical should be phased out of use in consumer products. The bill establishes Maine as a leader in safer chemicals policy reform, along with Washington state, which passed a similar bill this month, Massachusetts and California. Twenty-nine states are considering legislation this year to protect children’s health from toxic chemicals in products

“Parents were alarmed this summer when they discovered common toys contained lead, a toxin known to harm the developing brain. Upon closer inspection we’ve learned that lead is just the tip of the iceberg and that many chemicals that can harm healthy development are routinely used in consumer products. Wide gaps in our laws have failed to protect our kids. I applaud Maine Legislators for ensuring our State will now take action to ensure products are safe for our children,” said Sandy Cort, a representative of the Learning Disabilities Association of Maine.

The Senate voted 35-0 today to enact LD 2048. Last night the House voted 129 to 9 in support of the bill. LD 2048 will now be sent to the Governor for signature. The bill creates a process for the state to take advantage of the best scientific research to phase out the use of chemicals that endanger children. LD 2048 will: establish lists of chemicals already known to harm children based upon independent science; prioritize the worst chemicals based on children’s exposure, require manufacturers to disclose the use of these chemicals in products, share information with other states to work collaboratively to fill the gaps in the broken federal safety system for toxic chemicals, and authorize Maine to phase out the use of dangerous chemicals when safer alternatives are available, effective and affordable.

The Maine Legislative votes came on a day when bisphenol A, a chemical widely used in consumer products such as plastic baby bottle and known to harm children came under fire from government scientists in the US and Canada. The National Toxicology Program reversed its previous opinion by declaring that bisphenol A may be linked to a number of serious reproductive and developmental problems that are common in the US population including breast cancer and early puberty. Health Canada has labeled bisphenol A a dangerous threat. The designation as dangerous could pave the way for the chemical to be listed as toxic under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, which would allow for specific measures to curb its use.

Children are particularly vulnerable to the harmful effects of toxic chemicals because their bodies are developing rapidly, and their systems are especially susceptible to the effects of toxic chemicals, even at very low doses. Children inevitably put toys in their mouths and ingest contaminated house dust, increasing their exposure.

LD 2048 is widely supported by an unprecedented coalition of Maine parents and organizations. Supporters include Maine Medical Association, the Maine Chapters of the Academy of Pediatrics, American Cancer Society, American Nurses Association, and American Lung Association, local toy stores and Maine based manufacturers including Red Dragon Toys, The Briar Patch Toy Store, Interface Fabric, and Tom’s of Maine, the AFL-CIO, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Maine, and the Alliance for a Clean and Healthy Maine whose members include the Environmental Health Strategy Center, the Learning Disabilities Association of Maine, the Maine Conservation Voters Education Fund, Maine Council of Churches, Maine Labor Group on Health, the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, the Maine Peoples Alliance, the Maine Women’s Policy Center, the Natural Resources Council of Maine, Physicians for Social Responsibility, and Toxics Action Center.

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