by Lisa Pohlmann, NRCM Executive Director
Good Afternoon Senator Boyle, Representative Welsh, and honorable members of the Environment and Natural Resources Committee. My name is Lisa Pohlmann and I am the Executive Director of the Natural Resources Council of Maine. In a past life, I was the long-time associate director of the Maine Center for Economic Policy. I’m here to testify in support of this bill and I would like to use my time today to talk to you about the opportunity this bill presents to you to avoid needless public health and education costs related to exposure to toxic chemicals.
I’ll be citing from a 2010 study done by Dr. Mary Davis, an economist at UMaine, titled, “Economic Assessment of Children’s Health and the Environment in Maine.” I’m including a copy for you with my written testimony. Dr. Davis’s study discusses the economic impact of environmentally related childhood illnesses in Maine.
The proliferation of synthetic chemical compounds, such as those regulated under the Kid-safe Products Act, has been accompanied by an equally striking change in the pattern of childhood illnesses. The investments we make as a state to reduce childhood exposure to environmental contaminants result in cost savings from avoided health care, special education, and other shared costs put upon us as a society.
Davis estimates the potential cost savings if all environmental exposures were eliminated in Maine children to be around $380 million each year.
Please note that this number is calculated based on costs attributable to six childhood diseases, including lead poisoning, and I am not implying that the bill before you today would directly reduce all of these specific harms. Of course it would be unlikely, if not impossible, to eliminate all exposure to all toxins, but this number does give you an idea of the kind of money we’re currently spending to treat preventable childhood illness related to chemical exposure.
Every hour that DEP staff spend implementing protections from chemicals like BPA and others on our priority and high concern lists represents taxpayer dollars that are being wisely and assiduously spent to avoid more costs further down the line.
For example, in the past decade, the number of Maine children receiving special education services related to neurological impairment has been increasing. Nearly one in five public school students now receives special education for developmental disabilities such as autism, emotional disabilities, and specific learning disabilities, to name a few. Maine’s Chemicals of High Concern list includes developmental toxicants. Yet the DEP will likely take no action to reduce exposure to these chemicals without further direction from you, the Legislature.
Special education costs are just one example. It is our belief that requiring further action under KSPA will help the state avoid some of these costs and others. I know the steps outlined in this bill are no small task, and I do not ask you to take them lightly. But spending time, effort, and money on preventing childhood illness before it occurs is the prudent thing to do and the right thing to do on behalf of Maine people. I urge you to vote Ought to Pass on LD 1181.
Thank you for the opportunity to testify today; I’d be glad to answer any questions.