Maine Parents Push DEP for Right to Know

The Maine People’s Alliance continues to play an active role in the Alliance for a Clean and Healthy Maine (ACHM), a coalition of environmental and public health groups working to ensure Maine’s children are protected from dangerous chemicals lurking in everyday products. This year, the coalition kicked off an aggressive grassroots campaign to force the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to take action on a series of chemicals called phthalates (pronounced thal-lates).

Phthalates are a set of dangerous chemicals that disrupt the male hormone testosterone during prenatal and early childhood development. They are commonly found in consumer products that use soft vinyl plastics like
lunchboxes, backpacks and shower curtains. They are also found in fragrances used in cosmetics and lotions.

Unfortunately, little information exists for consumers about which products use these chemicals. What’s worse is that Maine has the power to take action to protect children from dangerous chemicals through the Kid- Safe Products Act (KSPA), but in the four years that Governor LePage has been in office, he has opted to do nothing.

Fed up with the governor’s refusal to act, activists decided to take the issue straight to the DEP and compel them to consider this issue through citizens- initiated rulemaking. This year, they collected and delivered more than 2,000 petition signatures from Mainers across the state, triggering a rulemaking consideration by the DEP. The proposed rule would require major manufacturers to disclose their use of phthalates to the DEP. This right-to-know rulemaking would help consumers and open up the possibility for future intervention under KSPA.

The DEP has scheduled a public hearing for late July. MPA and other environmental groups are working to collect public comments from Mainers to show the broad public support for this issue and plan to show up in force to the hearing when it is scheduled, likely later this summer. It’s doubtful that the DEP will accept the rulemaking, given both the Governor’s steadfast opposition and the cozy corporate connections and influence in the DEP, (see reporter Colin Woodard’s investigative report Lobbyist in the Henhouse in the Portland Press Herald for more information on this influence).

MPA and allied organizations will continue to press this issue to make sure that the problem of toxic chemicals like phthalates can’t be ignored. To join MPA’s work on this important issue, please contact your regional MPA organizer.