Thursday, March 31, 2011

Maine Takes a Look at its Chemical Control Law - Is the Kid-Safe Products Act a Goner?

In 2008 lawmakers in the state of Maine passed a law that "enables Maine environmental regulators to recommend bans on potentially hazardous chemicals in consumer products used by children." Called the Kid-Safe Products Act, the law is now getting another look as critics argue that it "is another example of over-regulation stifling business growth in Maine."  Proponents argue that the law "protects children from harmful chemicals."

Now lawmakers are considering two new bills that would modify the original law, for better or worse depending on who you ask.  As the Bangor Daily News (BDN) reports, one of the bills would:

...either add some flexibility to an over-reaching law that discourages business growth or essentially render toothless a statute that protects Maine children from toxic chemicals.

The other bill would adjust the requirements of the law such Maine DEP "would identify 50 to 100 high-priority chemicals for additional scrutiny."  The current law stipulates a list of 1,751 'chemicals of high concern' that many are concerned hamper business investment.  Needless to say the discussion brings out the usual differences between environmental and health advocacy groups and the business community, in particular the Maine Chamber of Commerce.  As Kevin Miller notes in his BDN article:

The Maine State Chamber of Commerce has played a significant — and controversial — role in generating support for Hamper’s bill.

In an “action alert” to members and supporters, the Maine State Chamber of Commerce stated that the definition of a “children’s product” in the law encompasses “any item sold for residential or commercial use” in Maine, including packaging or components.

But critics accuse the Chamber of intentionally misleading members by leaving out the rest of the definition. Children’s products, according to the law, are consumer products “intended for use by children … and any consumer product containing a chemical of high concern that when used or disposed of will likely result in a child’s or a fetus’s being exposed to that chemical.”

Defenders of the Kid-Safe Products Act also accused the Chamber of causing undue concern by suggesting that the law gives the DEP broad powers to ban chemicals when, in actuality, the Legislature has final say on any proposed prohibitions.

Kevin Miller's Bangor Daily News article can be read in full here.

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