As a species, we seem to be spectacularly resistant to the cautionary lessons of history. Humans began using lead several thousand years ago. But we are still trying to address the use of lead in close proximity to children today.

All of the man-made chemicals in use today have a siren song similar to that of lead. They can be strong, versatile and cheap. The damage they can do is usually difficult to sort out from other factors, such as causing cancer, triggering miscarriages, affecting neurological development or reducing immune competence, taking decades of painstaking research to clarify.

In the case of lead, the bodies had to “pile up” before action was taken. And today, as in the past, you will hear the exact same resistance to change heard decades ago – the need for “more research,” that action will hurt business and that the federal government will take care of it. It would be laughable if it were not so sad.

The alarm bells are now ringing about PFAS chemicals and phthalates, which L.D. 1433 would phase out of food packaging in Maine.

We know there are chemicals in our environment that are dangerous. We know there is little regulation of these chemicals. We know that children are the most easily exposed and the most seriously impacted. We believe there are safe alternatives that can be substituted. L.D. 1433 offers a very modest approach to these particular chemicals where research about health effects, contamination of drinking water, bioaccumulation and biopersistence is emerging. Children, pregnant women and the unborn are at highest risk. Why not move forward if we can show that safer substitutions are available?

I urge our lawmakers to put Maine in a leadership role for the better health of those in their care and support by passing L.D. 1433.

Lani Graham, M.D.

family practice physician; former director, Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention; member, Public Health Committee, Maine Medical Association

Portland


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