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Maine people are polluted with dozens of hazardous industrial chemicals, according to a new study conducted by the Alliance for a Clean and Healthy Maine with help from the University of Southern Maine. In 2006, thirteen Maine men and women volunteered to have their bodies tested in the first-ever study of chemical pollution in Maine people. This study found a total of 46 different chemicals (of 71 tested) in samples of blood, urine, and hair. On average, each participant had measurable levels of 36 toxic chemicals in their bodies.

These findings show that Maine people are routinely exposed to hazardous industrial chemicals including phthalates from cosmetics and vinyl plastic, brominated flame retardants (PBDEs) from televisions and furniture, Teflon chemicals from stain-resistant and non-stick coatings, bisphenol A from reusable water bottles and baby bottles, and toxic metals such as lead, mercury and arsenic.

These chemicals are found in products we use every day: plastic containers, toys, furniture, fabric, automobiles, TVs and stereos, water bottles, medical supplies, and personal products like shampoo, hairspray, and perfume. They are in our homes and offices, food and water, and the air we breathe.

Scientific research shows that these chemicals are hazardous and that even tiny amounts may threaten human health. They are toxic or harmful to life and many are slow to degrade and also build up to high levels in the food chain. Babies in the womb and young children are especially vulnerable because they are still growing. Animal and human studies have linked these chemicals to learning and developmental disabilities, endocrine system damage, changes in sexual development, reproductive harm (including decreased sperm count in men), low birth weight and some cancers.

Despite proven and suspected dangers to our health, industry is not required to demonstrate the safety of chemicals before adding them to consumer products, nor are they required to use safer alternatives to chemicals known to be hazardous. Recognizing that the safety system for industrial chemicals is broken, the Alliance for a Clean and Healthy Maine recommends that a comprehensive safer chemicals policy should be developed and adopted by government to:

CLOSE THE SAFETY GAP by phasing out the most harmful chemicals in favor of safer alternatives, searching for safer substitutes for all chemicals shown to be hazardous, and requiring that all industrial chemicals are proven safe, especially for children;

CLOSE THE DATA GAP by honoring the public’s right-to-know which hazardous chemicals are in what products, and by requiring manufacturers to provide health and safety data on all chemicals;

CLOSE THE TECHNOLOGY GAP by investing in green chemistry research and development (R&D) to make bio-based plastics from Maine potatoes and other crops to boost the state’s economy through production of safer alternatives to toxic petroleum-based plastics.

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