Thanks to all who joined us in Bangor to tell Gov. LePage that he can’t “duck” his toxic track record.
This article was first published in the Bangor Daily News on October 21, 2014. Read the original here.
BANGOR, Maine — The 25-foot-long inflatable yellow duck in Broadway Park caused the driver of school bus No. 516 to slow down Tuesday morning to allow the students onboard to see the mega-sized bath toy that has become a symbol of the chemical safety reform movement.
Members of Prevent Harm, a public health political advocacy group spearheaded by former Maine House Speaker Hannah Pingree, held its third “Fear the Beard” campaign in Maine to protest against Gov. Paul LePage’s voting record on regulating chemicals. Similar events also have occurred in Portland and Augusta.
“We’re out here today with our little beards [on sticks] to make sure that our next governor will put Maine kids ahead of the chemical industry, not the other way around,” Emma Halas-O’Connor, Prevent Harm advocacy manager, said while standing before a group of two dozen locals and Prevent Harm members.
LePage, a Republican, was two months into the job in February 2011 when he dismissed claimed dangers of bisphenol A, an industry chemical used in many everyday household products that scientists claim can be dangerous, by saying that “worst case is some women may have little beards.”
BPA is used in the lining of some canned foods and jar lids, and it has been shown to cause a range of health problems and hormone imbalances, especially in children and pregnant women.
The Maine Department of Environmental Protection has taken steps to protect Mainers, spokesman Karl Wilkins said in a Tuesday email.
“The administration takes the safety of our families and the dangers of certain chemicals that could end up in consumer products very seriously,” he said.
In 2014, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection doubled the number of chemicals listed as priority chemicals in Maine, adding arsenic, cadmium and mercury to the list that previously included bisphenol A, nonylphenol and nonylphenol ethoxylates and is in the process of rulemaking, which would designate four members of the chemical class phthalates as priority chemicals, Wilkins said.
Many of the protesters in Bangor wore fake beards, and two of the protesters are running for office, including state Sen. Geoff Gratwick, a Democrat, who is running against Republican Cary Weston for the Bangor senate seat; and state Rep. Aaron Frey, a Democrat, who represents Maine House District 124 in Bangor and Orono and is running against Republican Colby B. Civiello.
Prevent Harm claims that LePage has “consistently undermined and attempted to roll back Maine’s chemical safety protections” by trying to repeal a BPA ban on baby bottles and appointing Patricia Aho, a former lobbyist for chemical companies, as commissioner of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection in 2011. LePage also is targeted by the group for opposing a rule to eliminate BPA from baby food packaging in 2013 and vetoing LD 1181, a bill to require billion-dollar food companies to disclose canned foods with BPA.
The sparsely attended protest included a local special education teacher and two mothers who stood at a small lectern and talked about their disappointment in LePage’s actions.
Some people driving by honked their horns, and the bus driver and the children on his bus had smiles on their faces as they enjoyed seeing the inflatable rubber duck as they passed.