You are here:  Body of Evidence ReportConclusions & Recommendations   
 Conclusions and Recommendations Minimize

Conclusions

Maine people can now join others across the nation whose bodies are testament to a chemically saturated world. While Maine seems remote and at times pristine, the Maine people who participated in this survey have provided evidence that the byproducts of modern life pervade our air, water, and food.

What is most unsettling for the project participants is that no one, not even the doctors leading the study, can explain with any certainty why particular chemicals were found in their bodies, why levels of some chemicals are higher than others, or how the chemicals are affecting their health now or in the future.

However, based on these findings of this survey of pollution in Maine people and similar studies, we draw a few conclusions:

1. People are routinely exposed to many hazardous chemicals. All five of the chemical groups surveyed were detected in the bodies of Maine participants, although all chemicals were not found in all of the people. This represents a partial first snapshot of what chemicals might be found in Maine people.

2. These chemicals pose a potentially serious threat to human health. While more needs to be learned about the health effects of chemicals in humans, review of the latest scientific and medical research reveals mounting evidence that these chemicals can harm the health of adults, children, and the unborn. Several of these chemicals are not only toxic but also possess other troubling hazardous properties such as being long-lived in the environment (persistent) and building up to high levels in the food web and our bodies (bioaccumulative).

3. Everyday products and materials are a major source of chemical exposure. The chemicals that are present in Maine people are also common ingredients in the products, plastics, and synthetic materials that fill our homes and workplaces. From the morning's shower, through the work day, to the meals we eat and the beds we sleep in at night, we are surrounded by chemical-laden man-made products. Unfortunately, these chemicals do not stay inside the product. They get into the dust, the air and water, the food supply, and—as we now know—our bodies.

4. The safety system for industrial chemicals in broken. Most of these chemicals that enter our environment are manufactured by the chemical industry and added to the thousands of items in daily commerce that support our modern lifestyle. Yet industry is not required to prove that a chemical is safe before it is manufactured, sold, or used in consumer products. Nor are product makers required to use the safest alternatives, even when non-toxic substitutes are effective, available and affordable. Under our current system, thousands of toxic chemicals have been “grandfathered” in without adequate health and safety testing. And government is handcuffed with undue burden to prove harm before any precautionary actions can be taken to prevent chemical exposure. If this system was working, we would not find hazardous chemicals in people’s bodies.


Recommendations

To prevent pollution in Maine people, government should enact comprehensive safer chemicals policy at the state and federal level. Three actions are needed to close the gaps in our broken chemical system to ensure chemical safety, provide useful data, and promote innovative technology. Together, these reforms will revitalize our toxic-dependent economy through green chemistry.

CLOSE THE SAFETY GAP

• Phase out the most harmful chemicals in favor of safer alternatives, for example Deca-BDE in electronics and furniture, and phthalates and bisphenol A in baby products.

• Search for safer substitutes for all chemicals shown to be hazardous.

• Require that all industrial chemicals be proven safe, especially for children.


CLOSE THE DATA GAP

• Honor the public’s right-to-know which hazardous chemicals are in what products.

• Require manufacturers to provide health and safety data on all industrial chemicals.

• Require that chemical manufacturers test and prove the safety of all industrial chemicals in commerce.


CLOSE THE TECHNOLOGY GAP

• Invest in research and development (R&D) of bio-based plastics from Maine potatoes and other “green chemistry” solutions that will boost the state’s economy.

• Establish a Green Chemistry Center for Sustainable Production within the University of Maine System to assess hazards and alternatives for harmful chemicals.

In February, 2006 Gov Baldacci signed an Executive Order for safer chemicals. Among other things this Order established a task force charged with developing recommendations for a more comprehensive chemical policy for the State of Maine. The Task Force will issue final recommendations to the Governor by October 1, 2007. In Maine, this Task Force should advance meaningful chemical policy reform to ensure that no product sold in the state contains a hazardous chemical for which safer alternatives are available, affordable, and effective.
Chemical policy reforms at the state and federal level should allow the continued sale of products and production of chemicals only if these safety, data, and technology gaps are effectively closed for industrial chemicals. A safer chemical policy will protect the health of the most vulnerable among us.

The Governor’s Task Force on Safer Chemicals in Consumer Products is charged with developing recommendations for a more comprehensive chemical policy for the State of Maine. The Task Force will issue final recommendations to the Governor by October 1, 2007. In Maine, this Task Force should advance meaningful chemical policy reform to ensure that no product sold in the state contains a hazardous chemical for which safer alternatives are available, affordable, and effective.


What action can individuals take?

Besides supporting chemical policy reform, consumers can take immediate action to protect their family’s health. Maine people can take personal action to reduce exposure to toxic chemicals by using safer products for homes and businesses, where available. Low-cost solutions can help reduce toxic exposure until our broken chemical safety system is fixed by policy makers; for example, eating fish low in mercury, testing well water for arsenic, and avoiding personal care products containing phthalates and other toxics. For specific resources to help you choose safer products and smarter practices that reduce chemical exposure, visit www.protectmainefamilies.org/saferproducts.shtml.

Institutional consumers, such as businesses, schools, state government, and hospitals, should take action too. They can purchase safer alternatives and adopt policies to avoid hazardous chemicals in products and materials. One positive example was set when Maine Governor John Baldacci issued an Executive Order in February 2006 calling on state government to reduce pesticide use on the grounds of state office buildings, replace lead wheel weights in the state fleet with lead-free alternatives, avoid dry-cleaning of state uniforms with perchloroethylene and avoid other state purchasing of products and services containing carcinogens or persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic chemicals.


 Print   

Home | Body of Evidence Report | Campaigns | Resources | Healthy Homes | News & Events | Get Involved!
  Copyright © 2013 by the Alliance for a Clean and Healthy Maine   Login      Site by Planet Maine