Every trip to the store involves a careful assessment of what’s coming into my home and into the hands (and mouths) of my two young sons. I am probably more aware of chemical safety than the average consumer, as I have spent the last several years and transitioning away from goods that are likely to contain harmful chemicals to safer alternatives. I use glass instead of plastic food containers. I’ve swapped out the vinyl shower curtain for cloth. And I am thrilled every time I can see clear evidence that I’m avoiding the dangerous chemicals known to me, like the now common “BPA Free” labels on reusable water bottles....
I was one of 25 Mainers who volunteered to be part of a bio-monitoring study of phthalates, a group of hormone-disrupting chemicals that are widely used in consumer products. We each provided urine samples which were tested for the presence of seven different phthalates. This week the results were released by the Alliance for a Clean and Healthy Maine in a report titled, “Hormones Disrupted: Toxic Phthalates in Maine People”.
I had the highest total level of phthalates in my body out of anyone in the group. My levels were higher than levels found in 90% of all Americans tested by the US Centers for Disease Control.(Read Holmes's blog post, "Careful shopper or not, your body may still be polluted with toxic chemicals.")
|Paige Holmes with her two sons|
As a mom with two young sons, the implications of my phthalate levels are really frightening. I know that these chemicals have adverse health effects on baby boys, including birth defects in male sex organs as well as reduced fertility and increased risk of prostate and testicular cancer later in life. I also know that phthalate exposure is linked to many of the issues that teachers like my mom and sister are seeing more and more of every day: learning disabilities, behavioral and attention issues, and asthma....
Here in Maine, citizens are using the state’s Kid Safe Products Act (2008) to take matters into their own hands. We are now circulating a citizen-led petition that will initiate a rulemaking before the Maine Department of Environmental Protection on the reporting of phthalates in consumer products.The rule would elevate four phthalates to “Priority Chemical” status under Maine’s Kid-Safe Products Act and require manufacturers to report on which of their products sold in Maine contains the priority phthalates. In other words, Mainers are taking action to find out which products contain phthalates.The Environmental Health Strategy Center of Portland blames Governor LePage for failing to act on this issue. Their recent newsletter states:
While the LePage Administration has stubbornly refused to take meaningful steps to protect families from toxic chemicals under the Kid Safe Products Act, Mainers are taking matters into their own hands. This spring, dozens of activists across the state helped gather signatures to force the LePage Administration to look at the science, and listen to citizens.
How? Our citizen-initiated rule-making petition will effectively jump-start the regulatory process, calling on the Department of Environmental Protection to use it’s authority under the Kid Safe Products Act to require large manufacturers to disclose their use of toxic phthalates. The Portland Press Herald put it this way in their editorial, "Labeling would help keep toxins away from Maine kids":
“Mandating the disclosure of phthalates in consumer goods is a minor technical action that could have a major impact.”...
With our partners in the Alliance for a Clean & Healthy Maine, we’ve collectively gathered a grand-total of 1,693 signatures from 146 towns, representing every county across the state. That’s more than 10 times the minimum number required by the Department of Environmental Protection to initiate a rule-making! But we’ve only just begun. Next month, we’ll gather to at the State House to deliver the petitions in person."EHSC asks other concerned Mainers to join them at the State House (for details, email EHSC) and to sign on to ask the Maine Department of Environmental Protection to act swiftly to a schedule a public hearing and adopt this common-sense proposal. (Want to help? Sign the petition to the Maine DEP to label phthalates in consumer products.)