Responding to the Ecology Center’s Healthy Car Report
by Matt Prindiville on behalf of the Alliance for a Clean and Healthy Maine
If you’re thinking fondly about that “new car smell”, think again. That distinctive aroma is due in part to the smell of dangerous chemicals off-gassing into the air and putting your health and the health of your passengers at risk. It’s also the smell of a weak chemical safety system that tends to protect polluters over people. But it doesn’t have to be this way – there are system-wide solutions to prevent harm. We’re counting on Maine lawmakers to speed efforts to replace dangerous chemicals with safer alternatives and expand consumer information when toxic chemicals are present.
Today’s report from the Ecology Center just highlights the sad truth – there are safer alternatives readily available for many toxic chemicals, but there is virtually no oversight system in place to make sure the safest products are used and kids and families are protected. In most cases, toxic chemicals are undetectable to our senses, even though they are present in so many of the consumer products we use daily. Maine children and adults are exposed regularly to chemicals that have been linked to reproductive problems, developmental and learning disabilities, hormone problems, and cancer. These dangerous chemicals are found in products we use everyday, including plastic containers, furniture, toys, medical supplies, and shampoo.
Children are particularly vulnerable to the harmful effects of toxic chemicals, which makes today’s car seat results especially disturbing. While we appreciate the progress that some companies have made, we call on all car and car seat manufacturers to immediately begin using the safe and effective alternatives that are already on the market.
The Maine Legislature has already taken several important steps to prevent harm, but more must be done. The flame retardant “deca” has been phased out of furniture and electronic products. We can have fire safety without poisons, but “deca” is still allowed to be used in cars and car seats, even though safe and affordable alternatives already exist.
Maine has also created a system for the worst toxic chemicals used in children’s products to be identified and replaced with safer alternatives when possible. This will help reduce the preventable disease (and the resulting high costs) that these dangerous chemicals can cause. Lawmakers must protect kids by ensuring this law is not weakened or destroyed by bad players in the chemical industry.
There are also safer types of plastics that don’t contain phthalates – Maine’s very own “Potatoes to Plastic” research has led to one such product and shows that we don’t have to choose between good health, a clean environment, and a strong economy. In fact, they go hand in hand. Investing in research and development of safer alternatives is good for our health and good for Maine businesses.
We’re counting on Maine lawmakers to move swiftly to build a strong chemical safety system that really works to protect the health of children and adults. There are safer alternatives to that “new car smell” – it’s time to step on the gas and use them.
(The Ecology Center Healthy Car Report and press materials can be found at: www.healthycar.org