Surrounded by photographs of poisonous chemicals found in Maine schools, a coalition of Maine parent, school, health and environmental groups joined legislators at the Statehouse today to urge passage of a bill to fund the removal of toxic, flammable and explosive hazards from schools. The bill, An Act To Protect Children from Toxic Chemicals in Schools, sponsored by Rep. Theodore Koffman would enable state experts to help schools, at their request, to safely remove a range of dangerous chemicals that have been found stockpiled in Maine schools. Funding for the measure would come from a 30 cent fee on wholesale suppliers on sales of lawn and garden pesticide containers.
The DEP’s pilot program to clean out toxic chemicals in schools was cut short due to lack of funding after only 18% of Maine schools had been cleaned up. As a result of this pilot program, 6,500 pounds of hazardous waste — including more than 700 pounds of mercury — were removed from science labs, maintenance departments, art and vocational classrooms, and nurses’ stations in 80 Maine schools.
“82% of Maine schools have not yet been assessed to determine if a clean up is needed,” said Rep. Theodore Koffman (D, Bar Harbor) who sponsored the school toxics clean up bill. “It is critical that we prevent harm to children, school workers and the environment and protect communities from negligence lawsuits by providing funding to rid our schools of unwanted toxic chemicals.”
“We now know that most Maine schools have stores of dangerous chemicals that are often unlabelled and can be highly, toxic, flammable, and even explosive,” said Jon Hinck of the Natural Resources Council of Maine. “Children and teachers should not have to negotiate a mine field of toxic risks at school. We need state leadership to make sure that Maine schools safe, clean and healthy.”
“It is past time to remove explosive and poisonous materials from all Maine schools,” said Representative Darlene Curley (R-Scarborough). “The health and welfare of current and future generations of school children needs to be a top priority.”
“Maine students, teachers and other workers should not be exposed to risk from toxic chemicals on the job,” said Rob Walker, a Lewiston Middle School Science Teacher and President of the Maine Education Association. “We urge legislators to support An Act To Protect Children from Toxic Chemicals in Schools.”
“Maine children deserve better,” said Philip LaFlamme, President of Maine Parent Teachers Association, the largest volunteer child advocacy organization in the state. “Our children are our future and safeguarding them at school is our responsibility. The PTA urges all state lawmakers to work to supply the funding needed to remove poisons from our schools.”
“As the parent of two children with learning disabilities I know first hand the challenges families face when their children struggle in school,” said Sandy Cort of the Learning Disabilities Association of Maine. “Especially while in school, children should not be subject to toxic chemicals, such as mercury and lead, which cause learning disabilities. That is why LDAME urges support for An Act To Protect Children from Toxic Chemicals in Schools, which would safely remove poisons from our schools”
The Maine DEP’s pilot program reached only 18% of Maine schools but found the following: