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Are You Contaminated With Toxic Chemicals? Twenty-Five Mainers About to Find Out
11/07/2013   Reported By: Patty B. Wight

Twenty-five Mainers are preparing to take part in a two-month long bio-monitoring study of chemicals in their bodies. The focus in on phthalates - chemicals that are used to soften plastics. As Patty Wight reports, the environmental group coordinating the study is also pushing the Maine Legislature to take up a bill next session that would require large companies to report which of their products contain the chemical.

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Zach Bouchard

Zach Bouchard, at podium, explains why he's participating in the so-called bio-monitoring study.

Phthalates are a hormone disruptor. They're already banned in toys and products marketed to children under three. But members of the Alliance for a Clean and Healthy Maine are concerned about exposure in a myriad of other products.

At a press conference in Portland, the president of the Southern Maine Labor Council, Doug Born, motioned to a table with shower curtains, shiny kids shoes, rain ponchos, and lotion.

"Are we exposing our kids to learning disabilities, reproductive problems, and asthma?" he asked. "We know that there is a good chance these products contain phthalates, but currently, there is no way to know for sure. And that's the problem."

To solve that problem, Alliance members want the Legislature to consider a bill in January that would list phthalates as a priority chemical, allowing the state to take action to remove it from products. The bill would also create transparency, says the director of Environment Maine, Emily Figdor.

"The second thing that this bill would do, is it would require manufacturers that earn over $100 million a year to actually disclose whether or not they're using phthalates in their products," Figdor said.

Legislative leaders are expected to make a decision on Nov. 21. In the meantime, 25 Mainers of different ages and occupations will undertake the research project by having themselves tested. Zach Bouchard says he's participating because he's the father of two young children.

"Just knowing that they don't really have a say in what chemicals and products we're puting in their bodies, and that's on us," Bouchard says. "And if we don't even know what we're doing to them, that seems really irresponsible."

The study is intended to provide a snapshot of what's happening in Maine. The results are due in early January.

Photo:  Patty Wight


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