As a young woman and student of public health, I chose to concentrate in maternal and child health because of my desire to improve the health and well-being of women, families and communities. I was shocked to learn about the health risks that women my age are exposed to by toxic chemicals in consumer products.

Toxic chemicals found in our make-up, shampoo, deodorant and other personal care products are hazardous. Growing evidence links chemical exposure from daily use of consumer personal products to infertility, pregnancy loss, adverse birth outcomes, developmental disabilities, cancers and other health issues. It is worrisome that the products I use daily may jeopardize my hope of conceiving a healthy family in the future.

Our current chemical safety law, the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976, is outdated and insufficient. Over 80,000 new toxic chemicals that have not been tested for public safety exist in a large number of consumer and personal care products. Today, nearly 90 percent of the ingredients in cosmetics and personal care products have not been assessed for safety. Chemical safety reform is imperative for the health of women and children.

Fortunately, Maine has emerged as a leader in protecting women and families against chemical harm. We have passed strong public health laws such as the Kid Safe Products Act and the phase-out of toxic BPA. It is important to have common sense and use science-based policies to protect children’s health here in Maine, but that is not enough. We need strong federal laws to help Maine keep toxic chemicals out of our everyday products. I am asking Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins to follow Maine’s lead by co-sponsoring the Safe Chemicals Act of 2011.

Malindi Thompson

Portland

I am very concerned that too little has been done to prevent toxic chemicals from entering my home and doing harm. This month marks the 35th anniversary of a badly broken law known as TSCA, or the Toxic Substances Control Act. Under this law, barely any of the 80,000 chemicals used in everyday consumer products have been tested for safety. Thirty-five years later, I know that many of the chemicals in everyday products lead to serious health issues such as cancer, learning disabilities and reproductive disorders.

I hope that Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins do the right thing in this Congress by co-sponsoring the Safe Chemicals Act of 2011, which would ensure that chemicals are safe before they end up on the shelves and in our homes. Thirty-five years is way too long to endure policies that put our kids at risk. Right now, our Maine senators have an opportunity to be our heroes in Congress by protecting American families for generations to come.

Judi Trecartin

Wells 

Reusable grocery bags spread germs

Your recent editorial arguing the case for opposing a grocery bag tax – a tax designed to coerce shoppers into using reusable bags – has one important additional virtue which you fail to mention: such bags are a clear health hazard.

As the Denver Post reported on Sept. 27, 2010, grocery bags used repeatedly without washing can easily become the depository of millions of bacteria. Post reporter Theresa Marchetta took several bags to infectious disease expert Dr. Michelle Barron at the University of Colorado.

Barron ran the tests and found that two of the seven bags examined had bacteria and mold counts high enough to pose a serious risk of intestinal illness. Two others had significant but more moderate levels, and two were clean enough to be safe. Marchetta also documented, using Glo-Germ, how easily the infectious bugs moved from the bag into your kitchen. Yum!

As the Post points out, few reusable shopping bags are regularly washed by their owners, a task that disposable bags eliminate. Those eager to “go green” are oh-so-quick to criticize modern technologies, but they often fail to consider the many virtues of such technologies – here, a cleaner, healthier kitchen.

Michael R. Montgomery

Orono 

Brian Butterfield should be the next Red Sox manager

In his words, “I’m a New England boy.” Brian Butterfield, the third base coach for the Toronto Blue Jays and Bangor native, is also experienced, intelligent, able and knowledgeable; he has had a positive impact on every baseball organization with which he has been associated.

The son of a respected sports legend, he has coaching in his heritage. (His brother has a celebrated win-loss record as a football coach at Ithaca College). He has received compliments from players, owners, managers and journalists. Well organized, he can supervise all facets of a baseball team. He knows how to handle a star with boundless ego. He is confident, ready, dauntless and composed.

Come on John, Ben, Larry and Tom; lets bring another major league championship to Boston by selecting Brian Butterfield as the next Red Sox manager.

Morton G. Soule

Portland

Maine kids should get priority over prisoners

This is a response to the article in the Oct. 20, Portland Press Herald: “Nine Maine prison inmates become college graduates,” by Heather Steeves.

While it is commendable that some prisoners are turning their lives around while incarcerated, I find it odd that a foundation is paying for violent criminals to get college degrees in prison with 20 years left to their sentence when we have Maine kids graduating from high school who cannot afford a college degree. These kids have not committed violent felonies; to the contrary, many have already bettered our communities through volunteer work and good citizenship. Despite their obvious potential, many of these kids will never receive a college degree because of a lack of money.

The happy graduate in prison stated: “It has been proven by myriad studies that obtaining a college degree in prison reduces the chance that inmates will commit new crimes and end up back in the system.” I bet there are myriads of studies that show kids who go from high school to college also reduce their chances of committing violent felonies. Better yet, how about Doris Buffet’s Sunshine Lady Foundation offering to pay for the college education for the victims’ children?

While obviously, a private organization can spend its money anyway it chooses, it certainly has strange priorities. There are hundreds if not thousands of deserving Maine high school graduates who have not committed heinous crimes and deserve a chance at a college education. I wish that Doris Buffet’s Sunshine Lady Foundation would have better priorities.

James Stovall

Scarborough 

Evidence against Dechaine can’t be dismissed

P.T. Barnum allowed there was a sucker born every minute and another born to take him. Dennis Dechaine certainly has garnered more than his share of suckers.

Andy Warhol allowed every one would enjoy 15 minutes of fame. Unfortunately, there are those who cannot settle for that 15 minutes. Once they see their name in print or see it on television they continue to spew forth the same garbage over and over and over.

If you totally ignore the evidence that convicts someone, then everyone in prison is innocent and should be turned loose.

Any one, like letter writer William Bunting (Oct. 12) who thinks the absolutely incompetent justice system in Italy is superior to Maine’s may leave for Italy post-haste.

Craig Elliott

Bristol