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This report is a collaborative effort of the Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families coalition, a campaign dedicated to protecting American families from toxic chemicals. The report incorporates a significant body of peer-reviewed science on chemicals and health. Download the report.

 

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For Immediate Release: February 18, 2010

Maine Adopts Final Safer Chemicals Rules

Statement of Michael Belliveau, Executive Director, Environmental Health Strategy Center

Today marks an important milestone in the drive for comprehensive safer chemical policy reform at the state, federal and international level. This morning, the Maine Board of Environmental Protection unanimously adopted proposed regulations to implement Maine's landmark 2008 comprehensive chemical policy law.

The law and rules aim to protect the health of children and other vulnerable populations by ensuring that priority chemicals of high concern in consumer products are replaced with safer alternatives in an orderly, systematic manner.

The last remaining policy issue, what is the definition of "children", was resolved through the rule-making: a child is a person under the age of 18.

The Alliance for a Clean and Healthy Maine (www.cleanandhealthyme.org), which turned out 25 speakers in support of the proposed rules at the December public hearing, greatly appreciates the leadership of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, House Speaker Hannah Pingree and House Natural Resources Committee Chair Bob Duchesne in achieving this milestone. We also thank our national allies who testified or submitted supporting comments including the Center for International and Environmental Law, Clean Production Action, Environmental Working Group and Tufts University professor and economist Dr. Mary Davis.

The regulations as adopted can be accessed at http://www.maine.gov/dep/oc/safechem/.

The law, An Act to Protect Children's Health and the Environment from Toxic Chemicals in Toys and Children's Products, can be found at http://www.mainelegislature.org/ros/LOM/LOM123rd/123S1/PUBLIC643.asp (Note: a "children's product" is defined to be any consumer product containing a chemical of high concern to which a child or fetus may be exposed).



To recap, here's how the law and regulations will work:
  1. CHEMICALS OF HIGH CONCERN. The State adopts a hazard-based list of Chemicals of High Concern previously identified by other authoritative entities as being known to be a carcinogen, reproductive toxicant, endocrine disruptor or persistent bioaccumulative and toxic chemical (PBT). This list of about 1,700 Chemicals of High Concern was published in June 2009 and can be found at http://www.maine.gov/dep/oc/safechem/highconcern/. This sends a strong market signal that these are chemicals to get of commerce forthwith.


  2. PRIORITY CHEMICALS. The State designates a short-list of Priority Chemicals by the end of 2010 from among the Chemicals of High Concern that meet one of more exposure-based criteria (such as being detected in humans through biomonitoring). This will be be done by rule-making and the list will be reviewed and revised at least every three years.


  3. CHEMICAL USE REPORTING. The burden then shifts to the manufacturer who is required to disclose to the State which Priority Chemicals they add to consumer products sold in the State, in what amount and for what purpose. The law and regulations authorized the State to assess a fee on product manufacturers who disclose in order to pay the cost of managing the chemical use data.


  4. ALTERNATIVES ASSESSMENT. The burden is further on the manufacturer to assess the availability of safer alternatives upon the request of the State according to specific criteria and through the use of modern alternatives assessment tools, such as the Green Screen, which are aimed at arriving at solutions. If the product manufacturer fails to produce an alternatives assessment to the satisfaction of the State, the State can contract out for an independent alternatives assessment that must be paid for by the product maker.


  5. SUBSTITUTION. The State agency is authorized to prohibit the sale of a product containing a Priority Chemical providing that they demonstrate that children or other vulnerable populations are directly or indirectly exposed to the chemical in the product, and that a safer alternative is available at a comparable cost to the consumer. The phase-out of Priority Chemicals in products will be accomplished through rule-making.


The Maine law and regulations establish an effective pathway for managing chemicals that is not hamstrung by the limitations of risk assessment. Importantly, for these high hazard Priority Chemicals, the regulatory process moves immediately to risk management, once hazard and exposure are established, to reduce or eliminate the chemical use, without the heavy burden of a cumbersome and oft-delayed risk assessment process. This is especially critical for the PBTs (and also for endocrine disruptors), since risk assessment has not been and can not readily be effectively deployed to drive protective risk management decisions given the unique hazards and properties of such chemicals.

With its focus on high hazard plus exposure leading to immediate risk management, Maine joins ranks with other state, binational and international efforts to eliminate PBTs and with the leading edge of corporate chemical policies in which the best business leaders are moving rapidly away from inherently hazardous chemicals that expose people and wildlife.



With today's action, Maine advances comprehensive state safer chemical policy implementation, a path that our sister states Washington, Minnesota and California are also on through comprehensive laws passed in those states. These state chemical policies also help ripen and inform the badly needed overhaul of the federal Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), a drive that is being led by the Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families campaign (www.saferchemicals.org) and other advocates.

The Environmental Health Strategy Center is a Maine-based public health organization promoting human health and safer chemicals in a sustainable economy. Online at www.preventharm.org.

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Posted on 2/18/2010 (Archive on 3/11/2010)

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