Body of Evidence: A Study of Pollution in Maine People
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Aren’t there state and federal policies that protect us from harmful toxic chemicals?
A: No. There are no comprehensive state or federal chemical policies currently in place that adequately protect all citizens from exposure to toxic chemicals. Without adequate regulation, industries can simply “sell first, test later”. The burden should be on the chemical industry to prove chemicals are safe before they hit the market. New laws are needed to ensure that products on store shelves are safe for our families.
Q: Aren’t industries required to thoroughly test chemicals before selling them?
A: No. Though there are 80,000 chemicals in use today, only a small percentage of them have been adequately tested for safety. Unfortunately, what we don’t know about most chemicals far outweighs what we know. Introducing untested chemicals into the market puts everyone at risk and adds to the burden on our health care and education systems.
Q: Aren’t all products regulated for safety before going on the market?
A: No. Because there is no comprehensive state or federal system to test and regulate chemicals, there are thousands of products on the market that contain untested, unregulated, and potentially dangerous chemicals. Product manufacturers, including many small businesses, are put at risk because of this.
Q: What kinds of health problems can result from toxic chemicals in the body?
A: Toxic chemicals pose serious health risks, including learning disabilities, autism, cancer, and infertility. They add significantly to the burden on our health care and education systems. Developmental disabilities alone are estimated to cost the U.S. $8 billion per year in medical, developmental, and special education services, as well as work and productivity losses.
Q: Isn’t it up to the individual to make good choices on what they eat and what products they use?
A: You can’t “lifestyle” your way out of a problem that has invaded every facet of our existence. Most chemical pollution happens as we go about our daily lives - in the food we eat, things we buy, and places we work. Most people are unaware that they are being exposed to toxic chemicals from many of the products they bring into their homes.
Q: How can I avoid exposure to toxic chemicals in everyday products?
A: You can’t. Because there are no comprehensive state or federal chemical policies currently in place, only a small percentage of chemicals in use have been adequately tested and regulated. Chemicals need evaluation. Products need regulation. And people need information.
Q: Aren’t these chemicals essential to maintaining our high quality of life?
A: No. There are many safer alternatives that allow us to maintain every convenience of modern living without exposing ourselves to dangerous and untested chemicals.
Q: Isn’t Maine a clean rural state that is much less polluted than other parts of the country?
A: It’s not about living in a “dirty” state or next to a hazardous waste site. Most chemical pollution happens as we go about our daily lives. Aroostook County is no safer than the rest of Maine and Maine is no safer than the rest of the US.
Q: Isn’t chemical regulation just more of a burden on businesses?
A: The real burden on manufacturers, including many small businesses, is the risks they are forced to assume because most chemicals are not adequately tested by the chemical industry or regulated by the government. Manufacturers are caught in the middle – they want to offer consumers safe and effective products, but it isn’t feasible or affordable for them to independently test every raw material they use.
Q: Does the report link chemical pollution levels to specific Maine businesses?
A: The purpose of this report is not to identify any specific businesses that are to be blamed. And the sponsors of the report do not believe there is any company in Maine that is a direct contributor to the chemical pollution levels measured. Rather, this is about a system that is broken.
Q: Aren’t the exposure levels so low as to have no real effect on health?
A: There are many examples where low levels of certain chemicals have a significant impact on health. For example, many prescription drugs are effective at doses similar to the low levels found for the chemical pollutants in this study. And many chemicals mimic natural hormones in the body that act at extremely low levels to regulate development, reproduction, immune function and many other biological systems. In addition, many chemicals are slow to degrade, so low levels build up to higher levels over time.
Q: How can I get tested for toxic chemicals in my body?
A: Unfortunately, the process for getting tested for toxic chemicals is both complicated and costly. There is no “one-stop shopping” for the tests undertaken in this study. For more information, contact the Alliance for a Clean and Healthy Maine (see information below).
Q: How do I get more information or get involved?
A: Contact the Alliance for a Clean and Healthy Maine at www.cleanandhealthyme.org, 207-772-2181, One Pleasant Street, Fourth Floor, Portland, Maine 04101