Stronger action urged after Maine DEP releases list of 49 chemicals dangerous to children

Posted July 05, 2012, at 6:17 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — The Maine Department of Environmental Protection has published a list of 49 chemicals whose everyday use it deems dangerous to the health of Maine children, but an environmental policy group is urging stronger action.

The DEP met a July 1 deadline set by the Legislature requiring it to adopt a list of up to 70 Chemicals of High Concern. The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention aided in compiling the list. The list follows last year’s changes to the Kid Safe Products Act.

“We congratulate the Administration for taking these first, small steps toward safer products for Maine families,” Sierra Fletcher, public affairs and policy director of the Environmental Health Strategy Center, said in a statement this week. “Now it’s time to take great strides to protect the health of Maine’s children. The State should require product makers to replace these dangerous chemicals with safer alternatives.”

Fletcher said she was disappointed that more chemicals weren’t included in the list.

Maine’s new list of Chemicals of High Concern includes toxic substances commonly found in many products in the home, including shower curtains and other plastic items, furniture and carpets, as well as personal care products such as nail polishes, lotions and sunscreens.

Phthalates, widely used to soften vinyl plastic; parabens, preservatives in shampoos and lotions; flame retardants; sunscreen chemicals; perfluorinated chemicals found in fabric treatments; and siloxanes found in personal care products were highlighted among the 49 chemicals by the Maine DEP.

“We’re disappointed that more chemicals weren’t formally recognized as threats to children’s health,” said Mike Belliveau, executive director of the Environmental Health Strategy Center. “The science supports a longer list.”

Many of the chemicals named can harm children’s development, causing learning disabilities, reproductive problems, cancer and other diseases later in life, according to the center. It said that several of the chemicals are known to disrupt the hormone system that regulates the functioning of healthy bodies.

A 2007 Maine study found several of the listed chemicals in blood, urine and hair of Maine residents.

In 2010, the first priority chemicals named under the Kid Safe Products Act were bisphenol A and nonylphenol ethoxylates. To date, manufacturers have reported the use of these two chemicals in paint, toys, containers for infant formula and baby food, and cosmetics, according to the center.

In 2011, despite opposition from the governor and the chemical industry, the Legislature upheld a ban on BPA in plastic baby bottles and sippy cups and strengthened the law to require the DEP to identify Chemicals of High Concern.

DEP spokeswoman Samantha DePoy-Warren said anyone can petition the department to add or remove a chemical from the list.

“That’s why we have the BPA ban now,” said DePoy-Warren.

DePoy-Warren said that because 49 chemicals are on the list out of a maximum of 70 spots, there is room for more to be added. The 49 chemicals listed are the only ones that met all the criteria needed to be placed on the list, she said.

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