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 News and Events

Today’s comment deadline starts clock ticking on DEP response to citizen-led rule-making

(PORTLAND) Over two dozen salon owners and stylists have added their voices to the growing call for disclosure of hormone-disrupting chemicals called phthalates in consumer products, including lotions, cosmetics, and shampoos. They announced their support at a Portland salon on Monday, saying the citizen-led rule being considered by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) would help them protect their customers and their employees, and help build market pressure for safer alternatives.

“Stylists know better than most the dangers of chemicals in personal care products,” said Thomas Leighton, co-owner of Parlour, a new salon on Kennebec Street in Portland. “In order to do our job we are coming in contact with hundreds of products every day. And just like parents, we generally have almost no information about what’s in them, what’s hidden behind the term ‘fragrance’, and what impact they will have on our health – now and in the future. It’s incredibly frustrating.”

Today marked the deadline for public comment on Chapter 888, the citizen-initiated proposal to elevate four phthalates (pronounced THAL-ates) to “priority chemical” status under Maine’s Kid-Safe Products Act and require manufacturers to report their use in products sold in Maine. The Alliance for a Clean and Healthy Maine delivered over 400 new public comments to the DEP in Augusta immediately following today’s press conference, including a letter signed by 26 salon owners, stylists, and barbers in Maine.

With the end of the comment period, the clock starts ticking Tuesday on the DEP’s 120-day window to approve or ignore the rule. Kathy Kilrain del Rio, Director of Programs for the Maine Women’s Policy Center said, “Will the DEP follow the science and stand up for the health of Maine children and pregnant women? Or will they put their heads in the sand, ignore the pleas of Maine parents and medical professionals, and let this simple right-to-know opportunity pass by without action? For the sake of our kids and grandkids, let’s hope the DEP says “yes” to collecting information on these four dangerous chemicals.”

Phthalates are toxic chemicals that disrupt testosterone and thyroid hormones, threatening early childhood development and reproductive health. Human health studies show that exposure causes birth defects of male sex organs, sperm damage, learning and behavior problems, and asthma and allergies.

First developed in the 1920’s and produced in large quantities since the commercialization of PVC plastic, phthalates are commonly used in consumer products found in the home. They are used in soft vinyl plastics, such as lunch boxes, kids’ backpacks, school supplies, shower curtains, rain jackets, packaging, table cloths, and flooring. They are also hidden behind the word “fragrance”, where they end up in cosmetics, lotions, and other personal care products.

“I’ve got customers with severe allergies; customers whose children have learning disabilities; customers who are struggling to get pregnant and are wondering why,” said Brenda Broder, owner of Amore Styles in Portland. “It’s on everyone’s minds, but there are too many questions, and not enough answers. As business owners, we want and need good information. And when that information is low-cost and easy to come by, as in this case, it’s hard to understand why the DEP would wait one more day to take action.”

Earlier this year 25 Mainers had their bodies tested for the presence of seven different phthalates. The results, published in “Hormones Disrupted: Toxic Phthalates in Maine People”, revealed that every one of the participants had phthalates in their bodies, some at very high levels. The information in the report ignited parents across the state, who undertook the citizen-initiated petition effort in order to find out more about which everyday products contain the dangerous chemicals.

In May, study participants and other activists gathered and submitted the signatures of 2,071 Maine people to the DEP - more than 13 times the number needed to start the rule-making process. Petition signers came from 168 towns representing every county in Maine. Signers included 125 legislators – Republicans, Democrats, and Independents – many of whom were the first to sign from their towns.

At July’s public hearing, over 70 people spoke in favor of the rule, no one spoke against, and the Maine Small Business Coalition submitted a letter of support signed by 126 small business owners.

“Small steps like this are what lead to big changes is the market,” said Broder. “Think about BPA – today you’d struggle to find a hard plastic product that contains BPA on store shelves. Here in Maine we work together and lead by example. We take small steps and we make a big difference. It’s why I’m proud to be from here and why I started my business here. I hope the DEP takes this opportunity to stand up for Maine families and businesses by approving this rule and helping us get good information about these dangerous chemicals.”

“Starting tomorrow, the DEP has the chance to take meaningful action to protect children and adults from these hormone disruptors,” added Kilrain del Rio. “No more delays; no more excuses that there are other priorities. We’re looking for information we can’t get anywhere else about a chemical that we are all exposed to and is truly one of the worst-of-the-worst. Will the DEP let the clock run out on Maine kids, parents, and salon workers?”

The draft rule can be found on the DEP website under Chapter 888.

Posted on 9/29/2014 (Archive on 10/20/2014)


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