Maine wants federal action on toxic chemicals

By Ramona du Houx - December 2nd, 2009 · 

Maine’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) released a set of principles designed to ensure that the debate in the US Congress over reforming the nation’s outdated chemical policy stays focused on protecting public health and the environment.

“Current federal chemical regulations fail to adequately protect Maine and the nation’s citizens and environment from toxic chemicals and unsafe products,” said David Littell, Commissioner of the Maine DEP. “The effects of exposure to toxic chemicals on human health, the environment, and the economy are enormous and often avoidable.”

Regulatory leaders across the country say the 33-year-old Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) does not contain powerful enough tools to safely monitor and control the tens of thousands of chemicals used every day in the United States. As Congress debates TSCA’s future, environmental officials in 13 states are seeking reform of one of the nation’s signature environmental laws to allow them to protect vulnerable populations by effectively identifying and regulating the most troubling chemicals.

States have long been the leaders in creating innovative policies to protect public health, the environment and create jobs through groundbreaking legislation. Maine has enacted single toxic chemical bans in consumer products (mercury, arsenic, brominated flame retardants, lead) to protect public health and the environment for over a decade.

Maine enacted Toxic Chemicals in Children’s Products in 2008 to create a comprehensive chemicals system to make children’s products safer and less toxic. The statute, one of the first in the country, provides the authority to require disclosure of information on prioritized Chemicals of High Concern and ban sales of children’s products when exposure to prioritized chemicals is likely and safer alternatives are available. It was passed to fill a void from an ineffective federal chemicals regulatory system for consumer products.

Implementation of Toxic Chemicals in Children’s Products is underway in Maine with the July 2009 publication of the nation’s first Chemicals of High Concern list and an upcoming December 17, 2009 Maine Board of Environmental Protection public hearing on associated rulemaking.

The eight recommendations listed in the States’ Principles on Reform of the Toxic Substances Control Act are central to TSCA’s reform, state officials say. The principles were developed through a collaboration of 13 states.

The key recommendations in the States’ Principles on Reform of the Toxic Substances Control Act include:
· Manufacturers must demonstrate that the chemicals they use and the products they make are safe – for the public and the environment.
· Safer products and chemicals should be promoted.
· Chemical and safety information should be widely available to regulators, businesses and the public.


Require Chemical Data Reporting. Chemical and product manufacturers should be required to develop and provide chemical health and safety information, as well as exposure and use data, including the presence of toxic chemicals in products and the associated chemical hazards and risks, to regulators, businesses, and the public.

Demonstrate Chemicals and Products are Safe. Manufacturers should provide the necessary information to regulators to conclude that new and existing chemicals and products in commerce are safe and do not endanger the public or the environment. The public has a right to expect that the products they use are safe.

Prioritize Chemicals of Concern.
 Government should identify and prioritize chemicals of concern in order to regulate the most problematic chemicals in commerce, and have the authority to take timely action to protect people and the environment. Sufficient resources should be made available to support these actions.

Protect the Most Vulnerable. Chemical regulation should be designed to protect the most vulnerable, including pregnant women and children.

Promote Safer Chemicals and Products. Based on green chemistry principles, manufacturers should be required to assess and identify safer alternatives to problematic chemicals of concern. Government should establish protocols for evaluating potential alternatives to chemicals of concern.

Address Emerging Contaminants. Emerging chemicals of concern, including nanoscale materials, need to be assessed for public and environmental safety before they go into widespread commerce and use.

Strengthen Federal Law & Preserve States’ Rights. States acknowledge the need for a strong federal chemical regulation system, while expressly preserving the authority of state and localities to implement measures to manage chemicals of concern.

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