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Toxic Chemicals

“If we are going to live so intimately with these chemicals eating and drinking them, taking them into the very marrow of our bones – we had better know something about their nature and their power.” – Rachel Carson

One of three of PSR Maine’s primary focus areas, toxics is a broad area of health concern. Our narrow work encompasses toxics in everyday products including but not necessarily limited to chemicals such as BPA and phthlates and chemicals found in flame retardants and pesticides. We better define this work through our position paper written in 2016. Much of our focus in Maine is on children and pregnant women and a portion of this work is done in concert with partners and in coalition work.

PSR Maine is a founding member of the Alliance for a Clean and Healthy Maine, a coalition of Maine environmental, public health, and other nonprofit organizations pursuing a multi-year strategy to phase out the long-lived toxic chemicals that build up in the food web and in our bodies.

In the spring of 2008, the Alliance’s strenuous effort to build legislative support for LD 2048 – An Act To Protect Children’s Health and the Environment from Toxic Chemicals in Toys and Children’s Products came to fruition. The bill becoming what is known today as the Kids Safe Products Act passed overwhelmingly. It requires Maine to adopt a list of priority chemicals of high concern, forces manufacturers to disclose the toxic chemicals they add to products, and authorizes the state to require safer alternatives. LD 2048, sponsored by House Majority Leader Hannah Pingree, continues Maine’s national leadership on safer chemicals, building on past success in phasing out mercury, arsenic and toxic fire retardants in consumer products.

PSR Maine took the lead in creating The Body of Evidence Report, a study published by the Alliance in 2007 to raise consciousness of the number and amount of toxic chemicals that are found in the bodies of Maine citizens. In 2006, thirteen Maine men and women volunteered to have their bodies tested in the first-ever study of chemical pollution in Maine people. This study found a total of 46 different chemicals (of 71 tested) in samples of blood, urine, and hair. On average, each participant had measurable levels of 36 toxic chemicals in their bodies. These findings show that Maine people are routinely exposed to hazardous industrial chemicals including phthalates from cosmetics and vinyl plastic, brominated flame retardants (PBDEs) from televisions and furniture, Teflon chemicals from stain-resistant and non-stick coatings, bisphenol A from reusable water bottles and baby bottles, and toxic metals such as lead, mercury and arsenic.

In 2012, PSR Maine introduced its toxics academic initiative in public health and nursing classes at the University of Southern Maine and by fall 2015 over 500 nursing students received the presentation. With that success, in 2016 we introduced a public presentation being given at Maine libraries and other venues. Also in 2016, PSR Maine is playing a leading role in the Alliance for a Clean and Healthy Maine.