Daily News Archive
From August 28, 2006                                                                                                        

Maine is Pursuing Safer Chemicals in Consumer Products
(Beyond Pesticides, August 28, 2006) Governor Baldacci recently expanded on his commitment to pursue safer chemicals in consumer products by establishing a thirteen- member taskforce that will be responsible for developing recommendations for a comprehensive chemicals policy for the state of Maine. The taskforce was created to begin the process outlined in the Order Promoting Safer Chemicals in Consumer Products and Services issued in February 2006 requiring safer substitutes for hazardous chemicals found in consumer products and creating incentives to develop safer alternatives on a state and regional basis. The Order also requires the state government avoid the purchasing of products that contain chemicals known to cause cancer or that build up in the environment and people’s bodies.

Governor Baldacci’s recent amendment to the order, An Order Amending the Order Promoting Safer Chemicals in Consumer Products and Service, calls for a 13-member task force to be appointed by and serve at the pleasure of the Governor. The diverse membership includes three members of the Alliance for a Clean and Healthy Maine. Nick Bennett, staff scientist of the Natural Resources Council of Maine, will represent environmental groups. Mike Belliveau, director of the Environmental Health Strategy Center, will represent public health groups. Sharon Tisher, professor of environmental law at the University of Maine, will also represent the Alliance for a Clean and Healthy Maine. Also included on the taskforce is an IPM Coordinator. The Department of Agriculture IPM Coordinator and the Cooperative Extension IPM Coordinator will share staffing of this single position; in the event of voting this position will have only one vote.

The Alliance for a Clean and Healthy Maine, a coalition of health-affected groups and public health, labor, environmental, grassroots, and professional organizations, applauded Gov. John Baldacci on convening the Governor’s Task Force to Promote Safer Chemicals in Consumer Products.

Nick Bennett, staff scientist for the Natural Resources and Defense Council of Maine said, “Data from countless studies show persistent, toxic chemicals in places they shouldn't be: in human breast milk, the blood of newborn babies, whales, eagles, and peregrine falcons, to name a few. This task force can help Maine stop using these types of chemicals and push the chemical industry to make safer products that won't contaminate our citizens and wildlife.”

The task force will also work on increasing research and development of safer alternatives to priority chemicals in consumer products, including investment in "green chemistry." This initiative could mean a new natural resource-based industry for the state, such as plastics made from Maine potatoes and other agricultural and forest products.

According to Sharon Tisher, "The University of Maine's new $10.35 million forest biorefinery research program is well positioned to produce alternatives to petroleum products - including safer plastics - from our renewable forests,” Ms. Tisher continued, “Maine researchers are also developing proposals to research the feasibility of producing plastics from Maine waste potatoes. These projects will help us get off the oil treadmill, and mean growth for the Maine economy. The task force will explore ways to give economic and policy support for these projects, emphasizing the development of both safer and more sustainable technologies."

The executive order also directs state agencies to educate consumers about safer alternatives to using hazardous chemicals at home. It highlights important regional and statewide programs to phase out the use of mercury, lead, and other toxic substances. All public schools in Maine must adopt and implement an integrated pest management (IPM) program that combines practical pest management strategies to prevent or control pests in ways that reduce risks to health and the environment.

According to Mike Belliveau, Governor Baldacci is to be applauded “for recognizing that our chemical safety system is broken, threatening the health of children and workers from daily exposure to industrial chemicals used in everyday products like TVs and toys.”

Mr. Belliveau noted that thirty years after passage of the federal Toxics Substances Control Act, only six hazardous chemicals have been restricted, and the vast majority has never been tested for health and safety hazards. Mr. Belliveau continued, “We need a new chemicals policy that acts on early warnings and requires safer alternatives to unnecessary toxic chemicals,”

The Alliance for a Clean and Healthy Maine feels that the Governor’s Task Force will be able to take the important first step of developing recommended legislation and incentives to promote safer chemicals to protect Maine families.

For more information, contact the Alliance for a Clean and Healthy Maine and its campaign partners through its website, http://www.preventharm.org/camp.part.shtml, or through the Environmental Health Strategy Center, P.O. Box 2217, Bangor, Maine 04402, 207-827-6331.