CAPE ELIZABETH — As a mom of two boys and a pediatric nurse, I was shocked to learn that some of the food we eat is contaminated with chemicals that endanger our health and the future health of the next generation of Mainers. Research shows that when the industrial chemicals phthalates and PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) are used in food packaging, they leach into the food we eat, and strong science shows these chemicals are harmful to children’s health.

That means that the meals I make for my children may come with a serving of toxic chemicals – and as a mom and a health professional, that’s unacceptable to me.

Phthalates are found in some food processing equipment and in coatings, adhesives, inks and some food handling gloves, while PFAS are commonly found in microwave popcorn bags, pizza boxes and takeout wrappers. Phthalates and PFAS both change the ways hormones work in our bodies. Babies and young children are the most vulnerable. Fetal exposure to phthalates has been linked to ADHD and other neurodevelopmental problems in children, and an increased risk of genital birth defects in baby boys. Exposure to PFAS has been linked to low birth weight, certain cancers and an increased risk of overweight or obesity as an older child.

Here in Maine, our representatives have a unique opportunity this legislative session to pass the Safe Food Packaging Act, L.D. 1433, which would help protect my children’s health by phasing out phthalates and PFAS from food packaging. Similar to the Healthy Food Packaging Act of Washington state, L.D. 1433 would add phthalates and PFAS to other toxics (mostly heavy metals) already banned in food packaging in Maine.

We need regulation on the state level because the federal government has failed to act. Despite the unique vulnerability of infants and children to the effects of chemical exposure, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has extremely weak requirements for a food additive to be determined “generally recognized as safe,” which are far from enough to protect our health. With the FDA dragging its feet, our lawmakers have the opportunity to be national leaders for health by phasing out these chemicals in food packaging in Maine.

Phthalates and PFAS affect the health of all Mainers – particularly our infants and children – and research shows that low-income families are exposed to higher levels of these toxic chemicals. All Maine families should be able to put toxic-free food on the dinner table. That’s why, to our representatives in Augusta, I say: Please vote for safer food for Maine families, and vote “yes” on L.D. 1433.