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May 23, 2013

Committee Approves Bill to Protect Pregnant Women and Children from Toxic Chemicals

Bill Would Get DEP Important Information about Use of Chemicals like BPA

AUGUSTA - Today, during their last work session of the year, the Environment and Natural Resources Committee of the Maine Legislature voted to strengthen Maine's Kid-Safe Products Act to reduce children’s exposure to BPA and other toxic chemicals in the home.

LD 1181, An Act To Further Protect Pregnant Women and Children from Toxic Chemicals, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Seth Goodall (D-Richmond) was amended by the committee and now will head to votes in the Senate and House.

"The Committee took decisive action today to further protect the health of pregnant women and children from unsafe chemicals," said Mike Belliveau, Executive Director of Environmental Health Strategy Center, a Maine based public health organization. "This bill will enable Maine regulators to get the information they need about use of the worst of the worst chemicals so they can set the next priorities for action to reduce harmful exposures to those chemicals."

As amended LD 1181 would do three things:

1. Require the largest food and beverage companies (those with $1 billion or more in gross annual sales), like Campbell’s, Del Monte, and ConAgra to report their use of Priority Chemicals (like BPA) in food packaging.

2. Allow the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to require manufacturers to report on which products contain Maine's 49 Chemicals of High Concern.

3. Require the DEP to identify the next steps needed to implement the Kid-Safe Products Act and provide a progress report to the Maine Legislature.

"Maine moms have been asking: are Sponge Bob and Dora the Explorer hiding toxic chemicals in their soup cans?" said Annie Colaluca, a mother of two from Waterville. "Now lawmakers want the answer to that question too. Finally getting the billion-dollar food makers to reveal what’s in their packaging is so important to protecting the health of our kids. Let’s face it, no child should be exposed to toxic chemicals like BPA at the dinner table, and no parent should have to worry that the food they give their children is unsafe."

Maine has named two Priority Chemicals, bisphenol A (BPA) and nonylphenols (NPE's). As amended, LD 1181 would give Maine regulators access to previously unreleased data about the use of these chemicals in food packaging. The bill would also authorize the DEP to get manufacturers to report on their use of Chemicals of High Concern. Last year, Maine named 49 Chemicals of High Concern, a list that identifies chemicals proven through strong, scientific evidence to cause cancer, reproductive problems, and hormone disruption. Information on the use of these chemicals could help the state identify its next priorities for action to reduce children’s exposures to these chemicals.

"Maine moms and pregnant women have a right to know which products in their homes contain dangerous chemicals," stated Kathy Kilrain del Rio, Communications Coordinator for the Maine Women’s Policy Center. "Today's vote will help families and businesses get good information about where the worst chemicals are found. We're confident the Maine Legislature will continue their tradition of protecting Maine kids and families from toxic chemicals and support the majority ought to pass report from this committee."

Passage of the Kid-Safe Products Act in 2008 and the amendments adopted in 2011 received overwhelming bipartisan support. For the first time, Maine adopted a system to protect children from the most dangerous chemicals in everyday products. Maine parents, physicians, and businesses have also widely supported the law and believe important progress has been made in the last four years.

Scientific evidence shows that chemicals commonly used in household products can lead to expensive chronic diseases, including reproductive problems, developmental and learning disabilities, diabetes, obesity, and cancer. A University of Maine study estimates that just four environmentally-related childhood diseases in Maine lead to at least $380 million in preventable costs every year.

"Every family and business in Maine pays the cost of exposure to toxic chemicals," said Abby King, Toxics Policy Advocate for the Natural Resources Council of Maine. "Today's vote is another important step to ensure Maine’s popular Kid-Safe Products Act works as intended to identify the most dangerous chemicals used in household products, report where those chemicals are found, and require safer alternatives to the most toxic chemicals out there."

Research shows that children are particularly vulnerable to the harmful effects of toxic chemicals. Because they are going through rapid development, babies and young children are exposed, pound for pound, to higher levels of toxic chemicals than adults, through umbilical cord blood, breast milk and contaminated house dust from crawling on the floor.

"Every single day more kids are exposed to BPA at the dinner table while parents are left in the dark about which food packaging contains this hormone disrupting chemical," said Emily Figdor, Director of Environment Maine. "Is it in the soup, the tomato sauce, the baked beans? There is no way to know. Today’s vote brings us one step closer to shining a light on the very worst chemicals found in our homes and the cancer, diabetes, reproductive problems, and developmental impacts that arrive with them."

Posted on 5/24/2013 (Archive on 6/14/2013)

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