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The bodies of Maine people are polluted with phthalates
(pronounced THAL-ates), a group of hormone disrupting chemicals that are widely used in many consumer products. Every one of the 25 men and women who voluntarily participated in a new biomonitoring study by the Alliance for a Clean and Healthy Maine were exposed to at least five of the seven phthalates tested. Some Mainers were exposed at much higher levels than other Americans. Eight Maine people were in the top 5% of phthalate exposure nationally, and another four were in the top 10% in the U.S.

Phthalates cause serious health problems. Scientists have shown that phthalates reduce testosterone levels and thyroid hormones critical to healthy development. Dozens of human health studies now link phthalate exposure to serious health effects, including birth defects of male sex organs, learning and behavior problems in children, and increased rates of asthma and allergies. Phthalates harm reproductive health through reduced fertility, premature birth, early puberty in girls, breast growth in boys, and increased risk of prostate and testicular cancer. The phthalates are also “obesogens” that interfere with fatrelated hormones linked to obesity and metabolic disorder.

Pregnant women and children are more vulnerable to the adverse effects of phthalates and also face higher exposures. Phthalates especially threaten early childhood development, but also teen and adult health. There’s likely no safe level of exposure to hormone disrupting chemicals.

Phthalates are in widespread use and difficult to avoid due a lack of public information. They are added to soften vinyl plastic widely used in many products including lunch boxes, kids’ backpacks, school supplies, rain coats and boots, shower curtains, tablecloths, floor tiles and wall covering. They are also a common ingredient of “fragrance” found in many cosmetics, lotions and other personal care products. Safe alternatives to phthalates are widely available.

All seven of the phthalates tested have been prioritized for action by various state, federal and European agencies, and by some business leaders. Yet in the last decade, U.S. exposure has only partially declined for four phthalates and has significantly increased for three others.

The continued widespread exposure to phthalates demonstrates that our chemical safety system is badly broken. The governing federal law, the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) has never been updated in nearly forty years, but meaningful TSCA reform remains elusive. In Maine, the Kid Safe Products Act of 2008 provides powerful authority to protect public health from priority chemicals in everyday products, but has been used too sparingly, so far.

To protect the health of Maine families, the Alliance recommends action by policymakers, businesses, and consumers, to:

• Close the information gap, requiring large manufacturers to disclose which products contain phthalates

• Phase out the use of phthalates in favor of safer alternatives


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