avatar Mike Belliveau, Executive Director

Riding the Wave toward Healthier Maine People

Republicans swept into power across Maine state government this month.  The same wave election that surged nationwide carried the day in Maine.  Some folks have asked me what these election results mean for safer chemicals policy reform.

Fortunately, there’s no partisan divide when it comes preventing prostate cancer, breast cancer, infertility, learning disabilities and obesity.  Reducing toxic chemical exposure, especially during early childhood and fetal development, will prevent such harm.

In fact, Maine legislators have consistently shown strong bipartisan support for protecting children’s health from dangerous chemicals in everyday products.   Maine’s actions place us in the center of the chemical reform effort nationwide.

A new national report, which I authored, shows that 18 states passed 71 chemical safety laws by an overwhelming margin in the last eight years.  Maine lawmakers enacted nine of those laws.  Of the 836 roll-call votes tallied in Maine, 78% of Republicans and 99% of Democrats voted in favor of protecting children’s health from toxic chemicals.

In a clear example of the bipartisan consensus, the Maine Legislature passed the Kid Safe Products Act in 2008 by votes of 35 to 0 in the Senate and 129 to 9 in the House of Representatives.  Maine policymakers voted children’s health first, above the interests of the out-of-state chemical industry that blindly opposed this safer chemicals reform.

The Bipartisan Drivers for Safer Chemicals

I attribute the strong bipartisan support for state chemical policy reform to:

The voting record of Maine legislators strongly tracks public opinion.  As the Republican wave was roiling late this summer, a national poll of 75 swing Congressional districts found that 78% of likely voters were seriously concerned about the threat to children’s health from toxic chemicals in day-to-day life.  About 80% favored federal legislation to tighten restrictions on toxic chemicals, even after hearing the strongest arguments against action.

Huge health costs are another driver.  A University of Maine study by health economist Dr. Mary Davis found that Maine could save $380 million per year by preventing the childhood cancer, asthma, lead poisoning and learning & developmental disabilities associated with environmental exposures.

Until Congress acts to overhaul the toothless Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976, Maine children and families will depend on continued state policy leadership.

The New Maine Legislature

Some have asked, with Speaker Hannah Pingree leaving office, where are you going to find new champions for children’s environmental health?

Perhaps new Senate President-elect, Kevin Raye (R-Washington County).  Senator Raye was the architect of the unanimous 2008 Senate vote on the Kid Safe Products Act, made possible by a compromise amendment he sponsored.  Senator Raye also built consensus in the Health and Human Services Committee, which unanimously approved another bill to protect children’s health from toxic lead in toys.

The new Maine Senate, where Republicans will hold a 20 to 14 margin over Democrats, with one independent, includes a number of other Senators from both sides of the aisle with strong legislative records of support for environmental health and safer chemical policies.

Republicans will also control the new Maine House of Representatives with a 78 to 72 margin over Democrats, with one independent.  That chamber will hold several Republican champions of protecting children’s environmental health, including Jane Knapp (R-Gorham) who provided bipartisan support for the Kid Safe Products Act in the Natural Resources Committee and has participated in a national forum on chemicals policy reform.

In future posts, I’ll weigh in on the approach of Governor-elect Paul LePage to children’s environmental health and the new business opportunities in safer chemicals and sustainable materials.  Until then, here’s a parting quote from a sister state that says it all about getting toxic chemicals out of children’s products:

“Voting against this bill is like voting against brakes on a school bus” – Bob Sump, former Republican Representative from Washington State.

avatar Rachelle

You can shop for the holidays and support EHSC at our silent auction!

In just three days we are celebrating our 8th anniversary, on Thursday November 18th!  I am organizing the event, which will be at Whitney Art Works gallery, 492 Congress Street, in Portland from 5:30-8:30pm, and I want to give you a sneak preview.

We will have ample organic wine, organic chocolate samples from Equal Exchange, and appetizers and desserts donated from numerous local businesses that make delicious homemade treats including 13th Cookie, Aurora Provisions, Local Sprouts, Standard Bakery, Pineland Farms, and Borealis Breads!

While enjoying delicious food and drink, you can meet or catch up with the staff of the Environmental Health Strategy Center, visit with friends, and talk with new people who support preventing cancer, learning disabilities, and reproductive problems by eliminating dangerous chemicals from our everyday products.

And at 6pm you can support outgoing Governor John Baldacci as we award him the first ever Frank Hatch Environmental Health Leadership Award for his role in promoting safer alternatives to toxic chemicals in common products in Maine.

In addition, we will have a wide variety of fantastic items for you to bid on in our silent auction!  Check out some of the great gifts you can give for the holidays:

  • A one-night stay with breakfast for 2 at Nebo Lodge on North Haven Island ($150 value).
  • A $50 gift certificate to Fore Street restaurant in Portland.
  • Two Sunrise Guides (each a $20 value), which are a healthy and green living coupon book for southern and coastal Maine.
  • An eco-friendly basket of dog goodies from Planet Dog ($135 value).
  • A 10-visit punch card for Greenlight Studio, a play space for young children in Portland ($85 value).
  • A $20 gift certificate to Skillins Greenhouses.
  • A one-hour massage therapy gift certificate ($70 value) to Tim Mclain massage, located in Monument Square, Portland.
  • A one month yoga pass ($100 value) to Lila East End Yoga in Portland.
  • A pottery bowl from Edgecomb Potters ($50 value).
  • A Happy Green Bee organic outfit for a 6-month to 1-year-old ($62 value).
  • And many more!

I hope you can stop by our anniversary party and bid on some of these items.  If you can’t make it on the 18th and want to make a bid, you can send your bid before the event to me at rcurran@preventharm.org or 699-5789 and I will add your bid to the bidding sheets.

Happy Bidding.