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Report: More Oversight Needed for Toxic Products

April 20, 2011

PORTLAND, Maine - A Maine company which is cutting toxic chemicals from its products is being featured in a new report that highlights 14 firms around the nation which are managing to help people as well as their bottom lines.

Steve Taylor, Environmental Health Strategy Center program director, says companies such as True Textiles in Guilford should be applauded - but they are the exception rather than the rule. In his view, that's because the national chemistry-safety system is broken.

Taylor, a founding member of the Sustainable Bio Plastics Council of Maine, says the vast majority of the 80,000 different chemicals registered for commercial use never have been tested for health and safety.

"Chemical companies are not required under U.S. law to test the chemicals they produce for health and safety, and manufacturers are not required to disclose to consumers the chemicals they use in their products."

With the lack of federal oversight, Taylor says, Maine - like some other states - has taken toxic-chemical matters into its own hands.

"Scientists at the Maine Centers for Disease Control, working with authority given them under our Kids Safe-Product Act passed in 2008, have actually identified over 1,700 chemicals used in everyday products that are already proven harmful to children."

As a result of the Kids Safe Product Act, Taylor says, the Maine Legislature recently voted to phase out Bisphenol-A (BPA) from toddlers' "sippy-cups" and other food containers. BPA, a chemical used in plastics manufacturing, has been linked to a number of health disorders.

Nathaniel Meyer, a field associate with Environment Maine, the group that issued the report, says that the Legislature will continue to debate changes to the Kids Safe Product Act when it returns to work next week.

"We're on the right track in Maine. We have some really great laws that have made Maine a leader on chemical policy. But we certainly can't afford to move backward, and that's one of the risks that we're seeing in Maine right now."

The report - "Safer By Design: Businesses Can Replace Toxic Ingredients through Green Chemistry" - praises True Textiles, a fabric manufacturer, for inventing a naturally stain-resistant fabric without toxic stain repellents. It says the process saves the company an estimated $300,000 a year.

Monique Coppola, Public News Service - ME