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Maine Tackles Chemicals In Consumer Products

(Beyond Pesticides, December 19, 2007) Maine Governor John Baldacci’s 2008 legislative packet is set to include recommendations made by the task force he commissioned to develop safer alternatives to hazardous chemicals in consumer goods and services. The Task Force to Promote Safer Chemicals in Consumer Products, submitted its report on Monday after a 16 month study identifying chemicals that should be phased out of Maine households and businesses.

Governor Baldacci plans to submit a bill incorporating task force recommendations to develop a comprehensive chemicals policy focusing on the safety of consumer products. Among the findings of the 13-member task force, which was commissioned in February 2006, was a lack of federal regulation to ensure consumers have access to environmentally safe products, and health costs that have spiked in part to exposure to chemicals such as lead and pesticides, the use of which has tripled in Maine in the past 15 years. These chemicals, the report says present “significant risk of adverse health consequences ranging from subtle cognitive development to chronic disease and premature death.” Currently, there are more than 8,900 pesticidal products that can be legally applied in Maine, and about 431 confirmed cases of exposure to pesticides were reported in Maine in 2005.

“Maine families want assurances that consumer products are safe. We are here because there is nothing more important that protecting the health and welfare of our citizens, especially our children who are more susceptible to the dangers of chemicals in consumer products,” said Governor Baldacci. “Gone are the days that protecting our people and environment run counter to business interests. In fact, we can encourage the use of safer chemicals that provide increased protection to human health and the environment while supporting innovation and economic opportunity right here in Maine.”

The report also states that manufacturers that sell products in Maine should warn consumers if their products contain toxic chemicals. Other major recommendations are:

  • publication of a list of chemicals of high and moderate concern
  • a database available to consumers showing which chemicals are in consumer products
  • restricting chemicals in consumer products when safer alternatives are available and
  • more funding for state pesticides regulators for chemical tracking and consumer safety outreach
  • encouraging “green chemistry”

The state previously launched several initaitves to reduce its chemical burden. The administration started a “Green Seal” program in which environmentally friendly cleaning supplies are purchased and used in several state-owned buildings in an effort to cut back on purchases of toxic products and pesticides. Efforts are also underway to determine the viability of developing an in-state facility to extract potato starch and convert it to make a plastic-type material. Maine also signed the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, building on the commitment to lower emissions and fund new investments in cleaner technologies and energy efficiency and conservation.

Maine environmental and business officials said Monday they will continue to work with the federal government to promote the purchase and use of nontoxic chemicals. To read the entire report visit http://www.maine.gov/dep/oc/safechem/saferchemfinrpt.htm.

Sources: Associated Press, Kennebec Journal


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