Thursday, December 19, 2013
AUGUSTA - A group of mothers gathered at the State House on Wednesday to protest a LePage administration recommendation that they say doesn't go far enough to protect young children from the chemical bisphenol-A.
"It's an ongoing frustration with the governor," said Megan Rice, a mother of two from China. "Every time we think we're making progress, he takes a step back."
The mothers, organized by the environmental group Alliance for a Clean and Healthy Maine, petitioned the state Department of Environmental Protection in June to ban BPA from packaging for infant, baby and toddler foods.
BPA is used to line and seal cans and lids, and has been used for decades to prevent the growth of dangerous bacteria. Some studies have shown that BPA is a hormone-disrupting chemical that could be linked to diabetes, obesity and heart disease, as well as problems with brain development and reproduction.
Maine already has banned the chemical from baby bottles, sippy cups and other reusable food and beverage containers.
Now, the alliance is asking the Board of Environmental Protection to extend the ban to packaging for infant, baby and toddler foods.
Last week, the DEP issued a memo supporting a ban on BPA in infant formula containers -- a ban already instituted by 97 percent of infant formula manufacturers -- but recommended against banning the chemical from baby or toddler food packaging.
DEP spokeswoman Samantha Depoy-Warren said in an email that the department does not think the rules would be clear enough for consumers or companies to follow.
"Like these Maine moms, we are committed to the protection of public and environmental health, but we know from our experience implementing the existing ban on reusable food and beverage containers over the past year that it is critical that any regulations that are put in place are grounded in sound science and provide precise definitions and direction so that consumers, companies and the department understand the expectations and can comply with them," she said.
Gov. Paul LePage made headlines in 2011 when he said that the worst thing that could happen from exposure to BPA is that "some women will grow little beards."
On Wednesday at the State House, some of the mothers wore fake beards as they marched to LePage's office to drop off baby food jars that contain BPA.
They also produced a YouTube video on the subject, another jab at the governor because he has released prepared videos on various topics in recent months.
LePage said Wednesday that he's following federal Food and Drug Administration recommendations regarding BPA.
In March, the FDA expressed concern about the chemical's potential effects on infants and young children, but did not recommend that parents stop using infant formula or other foods because "a stable source of good nutrition outweighs the potential risk from BPA exposure."
In July, at the chemical industry's request, the federal agency banned BPA from baby bottles and sippy cups, something Maine did in 2010.
Asked about the Maine mothers' concerns, LePage said he's following the federal government's lead.
The board is expected to continue discussing the expansion of the ban next week, with a final vote set for Jan. 24.
Recommendations for major changes would have to be forwarded to the Legislature for consideration.
State House Bureau Writer Susan Cover can be contacted at 621-5643 or at: