By Susan M. Cover, staff writer
AUGUSTA — Amy Graham of Farmington lobbied the Legislature three years ago to get rid of potentially harmful flame retardants used in common household items.
She’s back again this year to finish the job.
Graham, the mother of two young children, said Tuesday that she wants the Legislature to prevent new uses of a flame retardant called Deca. It’s used in mattresses, televisions, curtains and upholstered furniture to reduce the spread of flames in a fire.
In 2004, the Legislature voted to phase out two other forms of the chemicals, called Penta and Octa. Now, Graham and nearly two dozen environmental groups across the state are working to get rid of Deca.
“We buy covers for the electrical outlets, we put household cleaners and medicines up high out of the reach of curious youngsters,” she said. “Yet, no matter how hard we try, there are chemicals in our homes from which we cannot protect our children.”>/p>
The chemical, which was classified as a “potential human health risk” by scientists at the University of Southern Maine, has been found in human blood and breast milk, she said.
Graham was one of many people who came to the Statehouse on Tuesday for a press conference to talk about six environmental goals for the new legislative session. In addition to the bill to prevent new uses of Deca, the 22 groups — which include the Sierra Club, Northern Forest Alliance and Maine Rivers — have joined together to support a variety of bills.
With a combined membership totaling about 100,000, the groups have agreed on these goals:
n No weakening of current environmental protections.
n Adoption of the endangered and threatened species list developed by the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. That list has 14 species including the New England cottontail, redfin pickerel, short-eared owl and a bird called Barrow’s goldeneye. The list hasn’t been modified since 1997.
n Adoption of rules to reduce greenhouse gases, which would help address global warming.
n Funding for the Land for Maine’s Future program. The program needs at least $25 million a year to operate, and the groups would support a multiyear bond, said Jenn Burns of Maine Audubon.
n Approval of a $25 million bond to support redevelopment of riverfront communities. Ted Allen of Brunswick, a volunteer who monitors piping plovers at Reid State Park, said without official state protection, some wildlife won’t survive. Even with a program in place to protect them, piping plover chicks don’t often make it to maturity.
“The only reason we still have these birds in Maine is that they are included on Maine’s endangered and threatened species list,” he said. “The state has made a commitment to protect them.”>/p>
When it comes to global warming, Bill Houston of Kingfield urged lawmakers to support a bill that would allow Maine to join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. It sets a limit on the amount of global warming pollution that can come from fossil fuel-burning power plants.
“Our economies are vitally linked to winter as we used to know it,” Houston said. “We don’t have to accept global warming as inevitable.”>/p>
Houston is an instructor at Skowhegan Regional Vocational Center, where he teaches the outdoor recreational leadership program. He’s also a registered Maine guide.
Fifth-grade students from Andover School near Bethel read a poem at the press conference about their love for White Cap Mountain. The students traveled to Augusta to support land conservation, which is supported by the Land for Maine’s Future program.
All of the goals put forward by the groups will help preserve the quality of life in Maine, said Susan Farady, of The Ocean Conservancy in Portland. “Maine is facing unprecedented challenges to our way of life,” she said.