Alliance For A Clean & Healthy Maine, August 16, 2006
MAINE IS DEVELOPING POLICY FOR SAFER CHEMICALS IN CONSUMER PRODUCTS
[Rachel's introduction: Maine Goveror John Baldacci has appointed a 13-member task force that will develop recommendations for a comprehensive chemicals policy for Maine. The policy will reportedly require safer substitutes for hazardous chemicals found in consumer products and create incentives to develop safer alternatives on a state and regional basis.]
The Alliance for a Clean and Healthy Maine, a coalition of health- affected groups and public health, labor, environmental, grassroots, and professional organizations, applauded Governor John Baldacci on convening for the first time today the Governor's Task Force to Promote Safer Chemicals in Consumer Products.
Gov. Baldacci appointed 13 Mainers to the Task Force which will develop recommendations for a comprehensive chemicals policy for Maine (see list of members below). The policy will require safer substitutes for hazardous chemicals found in consumer products and create incentives to develop safer alternatives on a state and regional basis. The Task Force was created through an Executive Order issued in February 2006 that also requires state government to avoid purchasing of products that contain chemicals known to cause cancer or that build up in the environment and people's bodies.
Three members of the Alliance are on the task force. 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, who teaches environmental law at the University of Maine, will represent the Alliance for a Clean and Healthy Maine.
Says Bennett, "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.
Tisher pointed to current work in this area. "The University of Maine's new $10.35 million forest biorefinery research rogram is well positioned to produce alternatives to petroleum products -- including safer plastics -- from our renewable forests," she said. "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.
Belliveau applauded Baldacci "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."
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.
"We need a new chemicals policy that acts on early warnings and requires safer alternatives to unnecessary toxic chemicals," he said. "The Governor's Task Force will take the important first step of developing recommended legislation and incentives to promote safer chemicals to protect Maine families."
Members Appointed by Maine Governor John Baldacci to the Governor's Task Force on Safer Chemicals in Consumer Products:
David Littell, Commissioner, Maine Department of Environmental Protection
Janet Yancey-Wrona, Director, Maine Office of Innovation, Department of Economic and Community Development; and State Science Advisor
Deborah Rice, Toxicologist, Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention
Kathy Murray, Integrated Pest Management Coordinator, Maine Department of Agriculture
Stacie Beyer, Environmental Manager, Interface Inc. (Interface Fabrics/Guilford of Maine)
Mark Dobrovolny, Operations Director, Tom's of Maine
Steven Pinette, SW Cole Engineering, representing Energy & Environmental Technology Council
ENVIRONMENTAL PUBLIC HEALTH:
Mike Belliveau, Executive Director, Environmental Health Strategy Center
Nick Bennett, Staff Scientist, Natural Resources Council of Maine
Sharon Tisher, professor of environmental law, University of Maine, representing Alliance for a Clean & Healthy Maine
OTHER (Labor, Academic, Public):
Dana Graham, President, Maine State Employees Association
John Wise, Director, Center for Toxicology and Environmental Health, University of Southern Maine
Melinda Davis, public member