Children, families and firefighters in Maine are under threat of illness and disease – and not just from the coronavirus. Toxic chemicals in our furniture, toys, cosmetics and other household products are contributing to rising rates of cancer, learning disabilities and immune dysfunction.

In fact, cancer is the No. 1 cause of line-of-duty deaths for firefighters, as a result of the toxic compounds found in everyday products, furniture and building materials.

And this unacceptable reality now threatens to get even worse. On Tuesday, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation will hold a hearing to confirm Nancy Beck as chair of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the federal agency responsible for protecting the public against dangers associated with consumer products including toys, children’s products, power tools, cleaning supplies and some building materials.

Beck has devoted her career to opposing health protections from harmful chemicals, including as a lobbyist for the chemical industry. And for the past three years, Beck has further demonstrated her commitment to dismantling health protections in her position overseeing the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention at the Environmental Protection Agency. Should Beck be confirmed, we will all be left in danger of exposure to dangerous chemicals in our products – with firefighters and children most vulnerable to exposure.

Maine Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King must oppose Beck’s nomination, to defend the health of Maine children, families and firefighters.

Mainers are well familiar with the need to defend our health from toxic exposures, and our state legislators have led the nation in protecting families and first responders from harmful chemicals, with a national precedent-setting 2017 ban on toxic flame retardants in household furniture, and another first-in-the-nation law phasing out toxic PFAS and phthalates from food packaging in 2019.

Of course, much more needs to be done to fully drive toxic chemicals out of our products. And with Beck at the helm at the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the progress Maine has made to get harmful chemicals out of consumer products is under threat of being undone.

Beck’s record speaks for itself. While her position at the EPA calls for her to oversee chemical safety at the EPA, Beck has instead driven rollbacks of rules meant to protect public health and resisted calls for the agency to take action to protect the public from toxic chemicals such as PFAS (per- and polyfluoralkyl substances), among other dangerous substances.

In her position at the EPA, Beck has been responsible for:

Rewriting EPA rules to ignore most worker exposure to cancer-causing asbestos and the toxic flame retardant known as “HBCD” when evaluating whether these chemicals poses an “unreasonable risk” to health. Her approach threatens many workers including teachers and firefighters – and her rule was thrown out by a federal appeals court.

Blocking proposed rules for protecting workers and consumers from the toxic solvent TCE, which is linked to cancer, fetal heart defects, liver and kidney toxicity and harm to the immune system.

• Overruling EPA’s scientists for the agency’s evaluation of TCE, resulting in there no longer being adequate protection for pregnant women and children from fetal heart defects.

• Stripping away health protections for workers by imposing a policy that presumes workers are fully protected by use of personal protective equipment when using toxic chemicals – including TCE, methylene chloride, 1,4 dioxane, carbon tetrachloride and 1-bromopropane – a false presumption that the former director of the Occupational Safety and Heath Administration has called “fundamentally, fatally flawed.

• Weakening health protections for everyone by imposing a policy that doesn’t consider exposure to contaminated air, soil, food or drinking water when EPA is determining if TCE and other chemicals pose an unreasonable risk.

And as if that record weren’t already alarming enough, Beck most recently made headlines for sidelining critical guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Protection on how to reopen communities safely during the coronavirus, further endangering our communities and families as we work to protect ourselves during this pandemic.

Beck’s nomination to head the Consumer Product Safety Commission puts Maine’s first responders, children and families in grave danger. Maine’s senators must vote “no” on Beck for head of the commission.


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