STATEMENT - Maine DEP Gets it Right in Rules to Protect Children’s Health from Toxic Chemicals

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STATEMENT of Environmental Health Strategy Center —  8 February 2012

Maine DEP Gets it Right in Rules to Protect Children’s Health from Toxic Chemicals

Today, the Environmental Health Strategy Center praised an announcement by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) that it has rewritten its proposed rules implementing the Kid Safe Products Act – Maine’s groundbreaking law that will eliminate BPA and other toxic chemicals from common household products.

The proposed rule corrections, which are subject to public comment through March 9th, reject a bid by chemical manufacturers and the toy industry to weaken protection of children’s health from toxic chemicals in everyday products. 

In October, industry lobbyists had persuaded DEP to propose several rule changes, which would have created major loopholes in the Kid Safe Products Act that were not authorized by the law amended by the Maine Legislature last year. (See our prior news release).  Today, the Department reversed course.

“We applaud the Maine Department of Environmental Protection for sticking strictly to the plain language of the Kid Safe Products Act, and for not thwarting the intent of Maine Legislature,” said Amanda Sears, Associate Director of the Environmental Health Strategy Center. “The corrected rules are just the right outcome, legally and will ensure Maine has the ability to protect children from dangerous chemicals in products like toys and baby food containers.”

The proposed rule revisions issued today drop all of the industry-backed revisions proposed last fall.  The corrected DEP rule would:

1.    Eliminate a proposed backdoor exemption from BPA reporting in toys

The chemical and toy industries proposed to define the term “contaminant” so broadly as to allow bisphenol A (BPA), the hormone-havoc wreaking toxic chemical, to be exempt from mandatory reporting in toys, even though it is intentionally added to polycarbonate plastic parts.  This loophole plainly contradicted the statute and legislative intent, and was properly rejected by DEP in today’s revisions to the proposed rule.

2.    Eliminate a proposed slashing of the long list of “Chemicals of Concern”

Last year, industry proposed a legislative bill to slash the list of “Chemicals of Concern” adopted pursuant to the Kid Safe Products Act.  After being rejected by the Legislature, the same measure showed up in the DEP rule proposed in October.   In today’s announcement, DEP wisely dropped this language from its revised rules, recognizing the statute did not authorize such an extreme policy change.

3.    Eliminate an onerous agency burden when naming “Priority Chemicals”

The DEP also dropped a convoluted “Catch 22” proposal in which the agency would need to present comprehensive evidence justifying the listing of a “Priority Chemical” even though the required evidence could only be obtained from reports that manufacturers were not required to file unless its products contained a named “Priority Chemical.”  Wisely, the DEP rejected this circular logic that would have effectively prevented new priority chemicals from being named in the future.

The Kid Safe Products Act was first adopted in 2008 as Maine’s comprehensive safer chemical policy.  It requires product manufacturers to disclose their use of priority chemicals in everyday products and empowers the DEP to require safer substitutes to dangerous chemicals when children or pregnant women are exposed and when effective and affordable alternatives are available. 

The first priority chemicals named under the Kid Safe Products Act are BPA and NPEs (nonylphenol ethoxylates).  About twenty-five manufacturers reported the use of BPA in toys, infant formula and baby food and the use of NPEs in household paints and cleaners in 2011.  See our report, “Poison in Paint, Toxics in Toys” for a summary of those chemical use data.

In 2011, the Kid Safe Products Act was amended by LD 1129, after unanimous agreement on the revisions by legislators and stakeholders. The proposed revised rules announced today will be open for public comment period until March 9, 2012. 

The next step under the revised law requires DEP, by July 1, 2012, to adopt a list of up to 70 “Chemicals of High Concern” as candidates for future listing as “Priority Chemicals.” 

END