February 28, 2011

Maine and BPA: a brief history

(Continued from page 1)

"It was a pretty strong 35 to nothing report in the Senate, so I think that speaks for itself," he said. "I don't think people are going to backtrack unless there's a legitimate scientific reason why we need to look differently. I think we certainly supported this ban when it came in and I think that we'll certainly take a look at it, but I think there was pretty strong support for the law."

Other parts of the BPA rule changes that were established last year have already taken effect. One requires manufacturers of toys that contain intentionally-added BPA to disclose that information to the state -- something that has been met with strong resistance from the Toy Industry Association, a national trade group for toy manufacturers.

"What it really boils down to is trying to find a reasonable rule that's implementable and doesn't put small companies out of business with having to test and test and test to document that they are in compliance with the law," said Andy Hackman, a spokesman for TIA.

Hackman said his group — which represents about 30 toy manufacturers in Maine — is seeking reforms to the law, not complete repeal.

"Despite some of the perception out there, we have not sought for a wholesale rollback of the BPA rule," he said.

Ann Robinson, a partner at the law firm Preti Flaherty, is registered to lobby on the Toy Industry Association's behalf and is also LePage's lead adviser on regulatory reform. The governor's original list of proposals that was posted online was marked with the law firm's document tracking numbers in the lower right hand corner and a LePage spokesman confirmed Robinson's role in compiling the recommendations.

Bruce Gerrity, another Preti Flaherty lawyer registered to lobby for the toy group, said he had communicated with LePage's office that he is not seeking total repeal of the BPA rules, but does support reforming the underlying Kid-Safe Product Act.

"(It) really fails primarily to look at chemicals from a de minimus exposure perspective, that's one of the biggest concerns we have," he said. "You should not have to — and it's inappropriate — to regulate a chemical in a context where it has so minor an effect that you could better devote resources elsewhere."

Mike Belliveau, executive director of the Environmental Health Strategy Center, a nonprofit group that works to promote safe chemicals, said it's ridiculous for LePage to say he hasn't seen science condemning BPA.

"If the governor puts on a blindfold, he's not going to see anything — so if he refuses to look at the science that Maine's toxicologists have reviewed or the science the United States government has reviewed, he's not going to see the hundreds of studies that show that BPA causes adverse effects at the same levels that babies are being exposed to today," he said.

Belliveau was also critical of an e-mail circulated this week by Dan Demeritt, LePage's spokesman, with the subject line, "World agrees with Gov. LePage on BPA."

The email contained links to studies conducted by  the World Health Organization and by the European Food Safety Authority, and highlighted by the Statistical Assessment Service

The Washington, D.C.-based Statistical Assessment Service, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, has been affiliated with George Mason University since 2004. The group does not disclose funding sources, but claims on its website not to take money from industry or industry-related groups.

Major donors to GMU, however, include Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation and Searle Freedom Trust, both of which spend millions annually supporting right-wing ideological interests, according to SourceWatch, a Wikipedia-like website devoted to exposing front groups "trying to manipulate public opinion on behalf of corporations or government."

"It's part of an actual, deliberate strategy by the chemical manufacturers to what's called to 'manufacture doubt'; this comes from the tobacco industry playbook," Belliveau said.

Tobacco companies funded studies, he said, just like the chemical industry has done on BPA, so they could use them to sway public opinion.

Demeritt said the reports were evidence of a lack of scientific consensus on the effects of BPA.

"Before reporting that the entire scientific community supports a ban, please look at these reports from the World Health Organization and the European Food Safety Authority," Demeritt wrote in the e-mail.

Pingree, the former House speaker, said she's optimistic that the BPA rules will withstand the scrutiny.

"I got the sense that ... that legislators on both sides of the aisle, when they really heard the facts that this is targeted toward only these baby products and that we'd be the ninth state at least to do this, it might be more of a no-brainer than is being portrayed," she said. "I don't know why the governor is picking such a fight on this because it seems like a good, slam-dunk, common sense issue for both parties."

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