by A.J. Higgins
MPBN radio news story
In an unexpected change of position, the LePage administration has opted not to oppose a bill that authorizes the phase out of the controversial chemical commonly known as BPA that is used in the production of plastic bottles and food containers. And the state chamber has taken a similar stance on the legislation which, if enacted by the Legislature, would make Maine the ninth state in the country to prohibit the chemical.
For some time, Governor LePage has made clear that he does not support banning Bisphenol A, more commonly known as BPA, from products sold in Maine. a month ago, he was asked if he would reconsider that position.
“No why?,” LePage said. “Until I see science that tells me that BPA is a problem — and I haven’t seen it.”
LePage maintained that prohibiting chemcials such as BPA that are commonly used in American manufacturing would send the wrong message to companies that he would like to see provide new employment opportunities for Mainers. So even though phyisicians and public health officials have warned that BPA has been linked to a wide variety of medical conditions ranging from breast and prostate cancer to reproductive damage, most of the bill’s supporters still expected the governor to speak against LD 412, which authorizes the state to adopt a final BPA phase-out rule. But that’s not what happened.
Darryl Brown, the Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection, testified before the Legislature’s Environmental and Natural Resources Committee today. “I am speaking neither for nor against LD 412 which is the position of the department,” Brown said.
Instead, of going into detail over why the department was essentially declining to take a position on the bill, Brown used his time to tell the Legislature’s Environmental and Natural Resources Committee, that his office generally takes a dim view of encouraging the prohibition of any manufacturing chemicals.
“There are many other tools we can use as a regulatory agency and we frankly don’t wish to pursue sales prohibitions as mechanisms,” Brown said. “We support scientific inquiries into the examination of safer alternatives regarding certain chemicals and compounds and as is the case with BPA, we believe the marketplace is already moving toward safer alternatives.”
But at least one legislator on the panel theorized that it was the Governor’s own scientific interpretations, and the public’s reaction to them, that may have prompted the adminstration to back away from its opposition to the anti-BPA bill. On February 18, the Governor raised more than a few eyebrows when he made this comment about the possible health effects of BPA which is used in the manufacture of some plastic baby bottles.
“The only thing I heard was that if you take a plastic bottle and put it in the microwave and then heat it up, it gives off a chemical similar to estrogen, so the worst case is some women might have little beards, but we don’t want to do that” LePage said.
“I think that maybe our Chief Executive has learned to be a little more discreet,” said State Senator Roger Sherman (R) of Houlton.
He said his committee is prepared to give the bill a throughtful examination and questioned why the Governor even felt the need to send a representative to the panel if it was essentially going to pass on taking a position. Citizen Debbie Berry of Poland, who testified before the commitee, said she wishes the governor had never even stepped into the BPA debate.
“After hearing the governor’s careless comments about BPA causing at worst little beards in women, I just wanted to make sure that Maine legislators are better informed about BPA and other hormonal disruptors and what they can do,” Berry said.
Berry came to the hearing armed with pictures of her daughter who is battling cancer.
“I brought a picture today of my daughter, I believe you all have it there,” Berry said. “It’s a picture of a young woman a mother and a wife, all of her beautiful curls lying at her feet from the effects of chemotherapy. We don’t know what caused my daughter’s cancer, but we know that some chemicals are carcinogens and are still allowed in our products –even children’s products. BPA has been linked to many serious illnesses — including cancers, reproductive system disorders and learning diabilities.”
The committee voted unanimously to give LD 412 a unanimous ought-to-pass recommendation. The measure now heads to the full house and senate for floor action.