BANGOR, Maine — A coalition of nearly 2,500 small businesses from across Maine is urging the state’s U.S. senators to support legislation that would overhaul the nation’s chemical safety laws and help businesses and their customers get accurate and timely information about deadly chemicals used in consumer products.
“We’re hoping that Sen. Susan Collins and Sen. Olympia Snowe will choose to sponsor the bill and have it move forward,” said Betsy Lundy, owner of the Center Street Farmhouse in downtown Bangor, where a press conference was held Thursday morning.
The coalition wrote a letter to the senators asking them to support the Safe Chemicals Act of 2011.
“No business wants toxic chemicals in the products or packaging on our shelves,” said Nate Libby, executive director of the Maine Small Business Coalition. “We don’t want to use them, we don’t want to sell them, and we don’t want our customers to be exposed to them.”
Lundy said a vast majority of the products at her store, such as diapers, are for infants.
The proposed bill “allows me to be a decision maker; it doesn’t make a decision for me,” she said. “It allows me to look at the information out there and decide, ‘Yes, this is something I personally feel comfortable having in my store and putting my name behind.’”
A group called the Toxic Action Center teamed up with the coalition and released a new report: “Safer Chemicals, Better for Business: What Maine Businesses Need from Congress to Improve Market Transparency and Product Safety.”
According to visual displays she showcased at the press conference by Tracie Konopinski, author of the report, 88 percent of businesses surveyed want policies that ensure full health and safety testing of all chemicals in commerce, while 96 percent support the phase-out of the most dangerous chemicals when safer alternatives are available. The full report is available at toxicsaction.org.
The bill aims to make businesses safe for owners and consumers, according to Libby.
“The main thing is being able to know what is in the product that we’re selling,” he said. “It’s about public health, it’s about good health and good business.”
According to the coalition, the Safe Chemicals Act would ensure that the Environmental Protection Agency has information on the health risks of all chemicals; require the EPA to prioritize chemicals based on risk; expedite action to reduce risk from chemicals of higher concern; further evaluate chemicals that could pose unacceptable risk; provide broad public, market and worker access to reliable chemical information; and promote economic innovation, green chemistry and safer alternatives to chemicals of concern.