What LePage’s “reforms” mean for Maine parents

Feb 1, 2011 by  | Bio |  1 Comment »

There are many things about Governor LePage regulatory “reform” proposals that could impact the quality of my family’s life here in Maine, from developing the North Woods to loosening restrictions on dirty air emissions.  But a couple of proposals in particular really frustrated me as a parent.  LePage’s proposal to repeal the BPA ban and the toxic flame retardant ban. The BPA ban phased out the toxic chemical in consumer products such as baby bottles and sippy cups.  The bill had strong support and there wasn’t a single Maine based business that testified against the bill.  But it received plenty of opposition from deep pocketed chemical industries, such as Dow Chemical.

While Washington based groups like the Grocery Manufacturers Association and the American Chemistry Council have supported a repeal of the ban, local grocers, including the Maine Grocers Association have not taken an active role and have not taken a stance on the ban.

I am the mother of two young boys, ages 17 months and 2 and a half.

My boys on the shore of Moosehead Lake

I spend a considerable amount of time combing through labels on baby products to make sure that the materials aren’t toxic.  It is time consuming to ground truth the harmful effects of chemicals.  What are the hormone disrupting effects of Bispehnol-A (BPA)?  Will that stain resistant/flame resistant perfluorinated synthetic chemical (PFC) on that couch give my boys bladder cancer?  So my attitude is to err on the side of being safe by buying products with as few chemicals as possible.  You would be surprised at how challenging  it is to achieve even that tepid goal.  But last year, Maine lawmakers took considerable strides towards making my decision making easier and safer by enacting bans on known toxic chemicals in kids products, through the Kids Safe Products Law.

Why are we trying so hard to appease out-of-state chemical companies?  Dan Demeritt, LePage’s communication director, dryly pointed out that BPA-free products are available on the market, parents don’t have to choose to buy products that contain the chemical.  This is the “people before politics” response?  As a parent that is constantly pressed for time (aren’t we all?) who frequently does shopping with 2 kids piled into a shopping cart where 5 minutes too long can spell “melt-down”, I don’t have time to read through all the product disclaimers.  Why should any parent have to take that extra step to protect their children when a simple solution is already in place?

I was pleased to see that Republican Senator Dana Dow took a stand on this issue.  He works in the furniture industry and relayed a story of a simple blood test revealed soaring high toxicity levels for PFCs.  Take a look at the link, Senator Dow testifies at around 8 minutes in: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qlc5urnzB50

This issue impacts all of us.  Will Maine choose to protect our children over out of state chemical companies?  Next time you are barreling down a grocery aisle trying to read the label, remember to call your representative and help them figure this one out.

One Response to “What LePage’s “reforms” mean for Maine parents”

  1. Cynthia Lyles

    Jane,

    I completely understand your frustration as a responsible parent and unfortunately, much of the truth about this entire subject is being diffused, confused and irresponsibly reported because it does not serve the interests of a few select groups, who, without responsibility, and in their own self-interests, want to simply ban chemicals in Maine period.

    I worked on the original language of that important Maine bill, LD2048, in 2008, in an effort to have it do what it stated it was meant to do, protect children’s products by limiting or eliminating toxic chemicals that had been scientifically proven to be harmful to children’s health. Much of the original intention of this legislation has already been corrected; plastic water bottles, major offenders at the time, have been remanufactured with no utilization of BPA. Children’s products are continually being modified to remove toxic chemicals or to reduce them to proven scientific levels that cause no harm. In our world today, we are inundated with chemicals, many of which actually protect us and most people would not enjoy the lifestyles they do without that component. Like it or not, chemicals are here to stay and we must use our resources and intelligence to have them integrated into our lives with minimal adverse effects.

    For example, the very BPA certain people want to have banned in Maine is used in making bicycle helmets for our children and actually is the very component that makes the helmet do its job of protecting your child’s head against injury – BPA is a binder of plastics that strengthen the end product in this application. BPA in and of itself is not the enemy; how it is used is the issue that should be addressed and this is being done throughout the world as we speak. The development of this chemical for its myriad of uses enhances much of what we enjoy today and to ban it outright is irresponsible and needless. In many instances, there is no safer alternative and I, along with the scientific community believe it is more prudent to take the necessary time and complete the scientific testing on new alternatives than to simply scrap a known for the potential harm of unknowns. And many of the negative claims are simply untrue.

    What actually has occurred and is posing a threat to a multitude of businesses other than the just big, uncaring chemical companies, as they are portrayed to be, is that as the rules are being implemented to manage the well intentioned legislation, another agenda is unfolding. On the pretense of protecting your children, many special interest groups are simply trying to be the first to say they banned a chemical in Maine. They used scare tactics to convince lawmakers to support it – who doesn’t want to support a bill to protect our children, right? – and now that the truth has begun to be realized, they continue to scare consumers in an effort to obtain their true objective, a name for themselves, without regard for the potential harm their results may actually cause. And we don’t fully know the extent of harm that might be caused because these special interest groups don’t want to listen to reason, they refuse to accept scientific data that doesn’t support their agenda and it’s much easier to execute smear tactics against responsible people trying to do the right thing for all involved than work together to insure we all live in a safer world.

    I am no expert, but this subject is near and dear to me simply because I can’t tolerate subterfuge and outright lies that cause the very confusion and frustration you are experiencing. There is no reason for it and it will ultimately be us, the consumer, who makes the final decision! Consumers are the change-makers and the industries know this. They aren’t going to be able to sell us something we don’t want. We need to make our voices heard and demand the truth from both sides, demand that we be given the real facts so that we can make informed decisions for ourselves. It takes time to wade through the bull, but somewhere in the middle of the mess is the truth.

    I commend you for your vigilance and hope my humble thoughts expressed here provide a bit of balance in your thinking about this very important issue. I believe the new administration in Maine is doing the responsible thing; looking at issues from both sides and trying to determine the truth. I attended one of the fact-finding meetings this week and left with the belief that the legislators truly wanted to hear from the people. It is our responsibility to speak up and provide them the opportunity to truly serve the needs of all Maine citizens.