avatar Blog Admin

EHSC Guest Blog: Dr. Gail Carlson

A Science Primer for Governor LePage

Maine’s Governor Paul LePage is in the media spotlight again, this time for making outrageous comments about the state’s proposed ban of the plastics chemical bisphenol A (BPA) in children’s products. He was dangerously mistaken when he claimed, “There’s not been any science identified that there’s a problem,” and he shocked people everywhere by saying, “The worst case is some women might have little beards.” Mr. LePage has embarrassed himself and outraged many people in Maine, but he has also provided us with a teachable moment – ­a chance to set the record straight, not only on the dangers of BPA, but on how science really works.

Mr. LePage correctly referred to BPA as an estrogen, but he was dead wrong in thinking it would cause facial hair in females. (That would be testosterone.) And not just women are affected by BPA –men and women, young and old are, because estrogens and androgens (like testosterone) are important hormones in us all. It is ignorant to say a little extra estrogen won’t harm us; it is arrogant to joke about it.

Mr. LePage claimed that “the science that I’m looking at” doesn’t support a ban on BPA. That is likely, because he’s not looking at all of the science, just a handful of BPA studies funded by the chemical industry, the very people who profit from BPA’s continued use. These studies, not surprisingly, show few adverse effects. This is what the chemical industry and Mr. LePage call “sound science,” but it isn’t sound at all, just the science that supports their viewpoint.

The LePage camp touts certain government claims of BPA “safety”, but even these assessments are often unduly influenced by biased information from the chemical industry. When the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and its European counterpart concluded in 2008 that BPA was safe, they consulted a few industry studies that showed no effects of BPA, and they did not consider hundreds of peer-reviewed studies done by independent researchers with no conflicting ties to the chemical industry. The FDA actually reversed its claim of BPA safety in 2010, expressing concern that BPA is toxic to fetuses and young children. Several U.S. states, Canada, and the European Union have banned BPA in baby bottles.

Mr. LePage said that he’s not going to support a BPA ban “until scientists come in and tell me ‘This is the harm and science proves it’.” I would be happy to provide the Governor with a long list of esteemed scientists to invite to the Statehouse. They have published hundreds of independently funded and peer-reviewed studies that show clear evidence of harm from BPA exposure, including neurological and reproductive defects in fetuses and young children, as well as increased risks of breast and prostate cancers, all at BPA levels that we know humans are exposed to.

Mr. LePage wants proof of harm, claiming that, “Science, to be proven, has to be the same experiment repeated time and time again and you get the same results. Then you have real science.” This is a dangerous misrepresentation of science for two reasons.

First, the chemical industry wants the public to understand proof as 100-percent certainty, which should never be the standard for regulatory action to minimize exposure to toxic substances. Good science uses rigorous modeling and statistical analyses to ensure that results are accurate, and our knowledge grows as more studies are done and as we develop new measurement techniques.

Second, scientists tend to value the “weight of the evidence” for harm, rather than relying on a single “smoking gun” experiment. And the weight of evidence on BPA clearly shows it is has an alarming range of harmful impacts on fetuses and young children. The responsible reaction of decision makers should be to minimize human exposure by phasing it out of everyday products.

In spite of his shocking ignorance about the evidence for BPA harm, Mr. LePage signaled his willingness to listen when he said, “Let’s identify the science and I’ll be the first one to take it off the shelf.” I plan to hold Mr. LePage to this promise. There is no defensible reason for him to ignore hundreds of high-quality scientific studies and instead protect the financial interests of the chemical industry over the health of Maine’s children.

Dr. Carlson is a visiting assistant professor and research scientist at Colby College in Waterville, Maine. She serves as an Advisory Board member of the Environmental Health Strategy Center.

avatar Blog Admin

EHSC Guest Blog: Megan Rice

Megan Rice, and Elizabeth at the Love ME rally, Valentine's Day at the State House

I have to admit – I have been a little out of the loop ever since becoming a mother 4 years ago. Prior to having my daughters, my work – and my passion – was public health advocacy. Once Paul LePage was elected governor, I knew I needed to come out of my bubble of diapers, play dates and princesses and get involved again. Two little girls were counting on it.

So I jumped at the chance to get involved with the EHSC and advocating for the Kid Safe Products Act. Addressing our new governor at the “People and the Environment” roundtable was an amazing experience. I was inspired by all of the speakers and the innovative work they are doing to protect our beautiful state and its precious resources, thinking the whole time how lucky I was to live in Maine. I really hoped Governor LePage was listening, but once he started talking, I was pretty sure he wasn’t. However, I thought to myself, “Surely he cares about kids so the Kid Safe Products Act will be just fine”. Boy was I surprised a few days later!

To say I was disappointed when the governor released his list of environmental rollbacks is an understatement – I was disgusted. He obviously didn’t listen to the panel at all. I felt he wasted our time, but then realized it was valuable for the governor to hear from the panel and see the crowd of supporters in the audience. We would just have to fight harder because there is no way he is going to repeal a law that gives parents like me information about toxic chemicals in the products my kids use everyday. The fact that he is even trying completely blows my mind.

It quickly became clear that there were a lot of Kid Safe Products Act supporters out there, and I had a feeling many in my “mom’s group” – Mainely Moms and Dads – would feel the same. The idea of a Valentine’s Day rally was proposed by MMD’s founder, Dana Hernandez, and the planning took off. Get this group of moms fired up about something and watch out! Cookie making and sign painting ensued and then we were at the State House rallying, asking the legislature to “Love ME” just like we do. But then we find out that at 8:58 – 2 minutes before the LD 1 hearing was supposed to start – the governor submitted a new version of LD 1 that no longer included the KSPA or the BPA phase out. For a minute I thought, “fantastic”, but then I thought, “wait a second – it isn’t going to be that easy with this guy”. Sure enough it isn’t going to be that easy.

I was a lobbyist in Augusta in the past so I remember how things work. Last minute amendments, standing around for hours waiting to testify – I knew it could happen, but this time I had a 17 month old in tow and I had stayed up way too late writing my testimony! It was frustrating for me and the other moms. We really care about this issue and we wanted to be heard, but I think some of us felt releasing the amended version of LD 1 at the last minute was a sneaky way of trying to keep us quiet. I can’t speak for others, but I’m a mom that likes to have the last word!

Governor LePage’s Valentine’s Day “bait and switch” isn’t going to work with us. If anything, it made my resolve stronger. I love my girls more than anything. I work hard everyday to do the best for them, but I can’t do it alone. I need to know that when I pick something off of a store shelf that it doesn’t have the potential to make my kids sick. I need the Kid Safe Products Act. If I wasn’t already committed to seeing this through, all I would have to do is look at the picture that was taken at the “Love ME” rally. I am speaking at the podium and my daughter, Elizabeth, has snuck away from my friends and is standing next to me, holding a sign, and gazing up at me with her perfect blue eyes. While she is probably really just wondering why I won’t pick her up so she can play with the cool microphones, I look at it and think, “This is really what it’s all about. I have to do this. Welcome to the world of diapers, play dates, princesses…and advocacy”.

avatar Andrew

1st Annual Meeting a success

In Falmouth this past Friday, the Sustainable Bioplastics Council of Maine (SBCoM) held an extremely successful 1st Annual Meeting at Maine Audubon’s Gilsland Farm.  The keynote address by Dr. Mark Rossi of Clean Production Action, “Defining a Path to Sustainable Bioplastics: Trends in Materials Specifications”,  had the audience of over 20 Maine business people engaged and seeking dialogue on this important topic.  Dr. Rossi acknowledged the significant step the Council took when we included “sustainable” in our name, and urged us to get involved in helping to set sustainability standards.

Throughout the entire event, there was much discussion, networking, and information sharing as members were connecting with each  other around issues important to their businesses and to the Council.  The business components of the meeting were also well attended and resulted in the current Board of Directors totaling seven members with Maylene Mitchell as President.

The SBCoM is a relatively new trade association comprised of Maine businesses, NGOs, the University, and individuals who are focused on promoting, supporting and expanding Maine’s emerging sustainable bioplastics industry.  The Council was created with direction by EHSC and is currently staffed by EHSC personnel.

avatar Mike Belliveau, Executive Director

Gov. LePage shifts the venue but NOT the attacks!

The fight has only just begun! The Governor’s Office and his DEP Commissioner told the Legislature and the media on Monday that they have NOT backed off of any of their proposed environmental rollbacks. It’s true that the the Governor did not include the BPA repeal and gutting of Kid Safe Products Act in the legislative language he proposed to the Regulatory Reform Committee on Monday. Make no mistake however – the Governor has pledged to continue to advance the chemical industry attacks on the health of Maine children. The only change is that the debate has simply shifted to a different venue, the Environment and Natural Resource Committee.

Read our full statement here.

While we’re confident that the Maine legislature, which approved the Kid Safe Products Act in 2008 by an overwhelming bipartisan margin, will stand up once again to protect the health of Maine’s children from unnecessary and dangerous chemicals in children’s products, we cannot take this for granted. We call on all Maine citizens – parents, grandparents and all others concerned about protecting the health of Maine children – to take action in the fight against the Governor and the out of state chemical industry.

avatar Mike Belliveau, Executive Director

Testifying at the Bangor Hearing of the Joint Select Committee on Regulatory Fairness and Reform

Yesterday afternoon I testified before of the Joint Select Committee on Regulatory Fairness and Reform at their last hearing in Bangor. As with most all the other hearings, a majority of speakers railed against the Governor’ proposed rollbacks of numerous environmental regulations, including the Kid Safe Products Act and the associated BPA ban rule. I added to those voices, saying that contrary to the claims of Governor LePage, environmental rollbacks will not create jobs or boost the economy. In fact many authoritative studies have demonstrated that strong environmental protections equate with a strong economy. I concluded my testimony with this:

In order to create jobs and improve Maine’s economy, the Legislature should:

1. Pass a research and development bond bill to replenish the Maine Technology Asset Fund to invest in commercializing clean technology based on Maine’s natural resources;

2. Oppose the rollback of environmental regulations that are essential for a healthy Maine economy and to remain competitive with other states; and

3. Approve the BPA rule and advocate for strengthening of Maine’s Kid Safe Products Act and for new federal legislation to overhaul the broken Toxic Substances Control Act.

Check out a couple of clips from the hearing by clicking on the links below.

MB Testimony opening

MB Testimony – env reg job creation clip2

See my entire testimony here.

avatar Amanda

What a Long Strange Trip the Last 2 Weeks Have Been

Well, the last time I posted we’d just had a big meeting with the Governor about Maine’s environment in which he said he didn’t intend to decrease any of Maine’s environmental protections. Before I was back at work from the weekend though he’d already released a list of 63 environmental rollbacks. The list is outrageous and several of the rollbacks would have the effect of eliminating virtually everything the Environmental Health Strategy Center has done to reduce exposure to toxic chemicals in Maine.

So, the past two and a half weeks have been a frenetic blurr of activity fending off Governor LePage’s rollback attack.

Here’s a recap:

The Governor released his rollback proposal

EHSC released a statement outlining our opposition to the rollbacks that threaten public health

Several hearings have been held throughout the state by a Legislative committee working to identify regulations that are bothering Maine businesses (BTW they’re not the ones LePage is after, & outrage at LePage’s proposals has been the focus of most people at the hearings)

No Maine business has claimed any interest in LePage’s rollbacks of the Kid Safe Products Act or Maine’s new BPA rule but lots of information has surfaced about where those proposals came from-  lobbyists representing out-of state chemical industries.

Which brings us to today.

As I’m writing this there’s another hearing happening in Bangor and Mike (EHSCs Executive Director) is testifying about what Maine legislators should do to encourage economic growth in Maine namely invest in development of new, clean technologies (like locally made plastic from Maine potatoes) and eliminate exposure to chemicals that cost us $380 million per year in preventable health care costs.

On Monday the committee is having a hearing on the Governors environmental rollback proposals- this is the most important of all of the hearings that have happened so far and we’re hoping lots of people turn out to make it clear (on Valentine’s Day no less!) that we love Maine and we love our families and want to keep them healthy.  Please join us at the State House for that hearing it will likely last all day long so come whenever you can!

In the midst of all of this it’s actually been really wonderful to hear all of the support there is for laws that keep us safe from toxic chemicals.  It seems that only Governor LePage and the people who are paid to speak for him disagree.

I just have to share one more link to a column by George Smith, who I think is widely considered to be a fairly conservative political junkie in Maine. Here’s a bit from his recent column about the Governors rollback proposals:

“Every Republican Senator voted for the Act that 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 whenever they are available.

Under this Act, BPA is the first chemical that the Maine Board of Environmental Protection decided should be phased out in reusable food and beverage containers including baby bottles and sippy cups. Governor LePage may be drinking from the wrong cup on this one.

Defense of the ban on BPA was the first of five issues that were unveiled last week as the 2011 Common Environmental Agenda. These folks aren’t stupid. Take an issue that every Maine Senator supported, mix in conservative House members like Dana Dow, and what have you got? A big defeat for the governor.”

Let’s hope he’s right!