A few days after a legislative panel unanimously voted to adopt the Board of Environmental Protection’s ruling that BPA should be banned in children’s products, lawmakers will hear testimony to gut the law that made the BPA action possible. There is no reason to do this.
On Friday, the Environment and Natural Resources Committee approved, without dissent, a ban on the controversial chemical in baby bottles, sippy cups and other products used by children. A vote of the full Legislature is still needed.
Proponents of a ban said a growing number of scientific studies suggest a link between BPA and learning disabilities, reproductive problems, cancer and obesity. Canada and nine states have restricted use of the chemical.
After a lengthy review, Maine’s Board of Environmental Protection voted in December to ban the sale of food and beverage containers containing BPA beginning in 2012. But the ban was subject to legislative approval, and the incoming LePage administration has come out against regulatory action on BPA.
Gov. Paul LePage included reversing the BPA ban on a long list of needed regulatory changes, and he downplayed the dangers of the chemical, saying the worst that could happen is that women could grow “little beards.”
BPA was the first chemical the state acted on under a framework established by the Kid-Safe Products Act, which was approved with strong bipartisan support in the Legislature in 2008.
On Tuesday, the Environmental and Natural Resources Committee will hear testimony on a bill to unnecessarily weaken the act. LD 1129 would make it much more difficult to place chemicals on a priority list and would create a process for removing chemicals from the list.
While creating a process for removing chemicals may be needed at some point, there is no indication this is a problem now. Since the Kid-Safe Products Act was adopted, only two priority chemicals have been named and only BPA has moved to the process of replacement by safer alternatives.
This hardly looks like heavy-handed bureaucracy. Yet, the Maine State Chamber of Commerce, which opposed the act in 2008, argues that the mere keeping of a list of 1,751 chemicals of concern is bad for business. They call it a “hit list.”
The Chamber says the state should narrow down the list to 10 to 50 chemicals, based on “sound science.” It is hard to imagine that, if 1,751 is a hit list, the business community will simply accept a list of 10 chemicals. Instead, a pitched battle to keep the 10 off any list would likely ensue.
None of this is needed. The Department of Environmental Protection, the governor and the state health director under the Kid-Safe Products Act have wide latitude with regard to priority chemicals. It is perfectly legal for them not to consider action on any additional chemicals for years.
Friday’s vote indicates that the Kid-Safe Products Act works. In the absence of a real problem, lawmakers shouldn’t rewrite it.