Maine lawmakers volunteer for chemical screenings

Posted Nov. 13, 2013, at 3:43 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — A group of seven current and former Maine lawmakers have joined a list of two dozen Mainers volunteering their bodies to be tested for a battery of “hormone-disrupting chemicals.”

The Alliance for a Clean and Healthy Maine, a coalition of environmental and health organizations, announced Wednesday during a news conference in Bangor that Maine Democratic Sens. Emily Cain and Geoff Gratwick; former Democratic House Speaker Hannah Pingree; Republican state Reps. Don Marean of Hollis and Corey Wilson of Augusta; Democratic Rep. Gay Grant from Gardiner; and former Republican Rep. Meredith Strang-Burgess from Cumberland will be participating in the tests.

They’ll be joined by about 18 other Mainers from across the state, volunteering urine samples for testing, according to Emma Halas O’Connor of the Environmental Health and Strategy Center. The samples will be screened for phthalates, which are used on plastic products to increase durability, transparency or flexibility.

Some studies have found phthalates can disrupt male hormones early in life and cause birth defects. Others have tied the chemicals to slowing brain development and contributing to immune system problems.

“If parents and pregnant women had good information about which products contain phthalates, we could start reducing exposure right away,” said Pingree, a mother of two young children, holding her 11-month-old son Owen during the press conference.

She also volunteered for the “Body of Evidence” project in 2006, in which 13 Mainers had their bodies tested for a battery of 71 chemicals. Volunteers provided samples of blood, urine and hair. On average, each participant had measurable levels of 36 toxic chemicals in their bodies, according to the Alliance for a Clean and Healthy Maine.

Megan Rice, a mother from Belgrade, also is participating in the phthalates study.

“I’m tired of my kids being exposed to toxic chemicals,” she said. “It doesn’t matter that I have spent countless hours researching products and reading labels, trying to buy safer products. The fact is that every day since they’ve been born, my girls have been guinea pigs for the chemical industry, so today I’m officially making myself a guinea pig and getting my body tested for phthalates.”

Halas O’Connor said the group expects to receive test results sometime in December.

The group also voiced support for “An Act to Protect the Health of Maine’s Citizens from Toxic Chemical Products,” sponsored by Grant, a bill that was tabled in the last session. That bill would have added four phthalates to the list of “Priority Chemicals” under Maine’s Kid-Safe Products Act, requiring manufacturers to report which products contain phthalates.

“This bill is a way to give parents, physicians and other providers the information they need to prevent the potentially devastating health consequences of phthalate exposure,” Gratwick said.

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