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“Kid-Safe Products Law” could ban 1,750 consumer products

Beer, wine, bicycles, cell phones could be banned

In 2008 the Maine legislature passed the “Kid-Safe Products Law,” which sought to remove dangerous chemicals from products that could threaten the health of children’s. In 2010, the Maine Board of Environmental Protection voted to ban BPA from food and beverage containers, such as baby bottles, sippy cups and water bottles, even though the industry has already stopped using BPA in those products.

Governor LePage has proposed modifying the Kid-Safe Products Law, mainly because the law could ban almost 2,000 common consumer products, including beer and wine, toothpaste and bicycles. This is a perspective from the Maine State Chamber of Commerce.

By Dana Connors, President

Maine State Chamber of Commerce

I applaud the Legislature and the Governor for putting regulatory reform at the top of the list of things to do in Maine. The time has come to strike a balance between reasonable regulations and moving our economy forward.

As they consider a wide variety of rules, regulations and laws, we would encourage them to look at one law in particular; one that purports to be about kids, but in fact it is a sweeping law that puts Maine jobs in jeopardy and is unlike virtually any other in the country. The law needs to be corrected.

Passed by the Legislature two years ago, this law gives a single state agency, the Department of Environmental Protection, the ability to ban any consumer product sold or manufactured here that Maine people use every day. This authority to ban consumer products is unprecedented. How can this be?

The law states clearly that the definition of “children’s product” in fact means any “consumer product,” defined as any item sold for residential or commercial use, including any component parts and packaging that a child may come in contact with.  That’s a pretty broad spectrum.

The law allows the DEP to ban all kinds of consumer products, including but not limited to: cell phones, computers, alcoholic beverages (yes, that’s right: wine, beer and liquor), refrigerators, roofing materials, insulation, gasoline, car seats, helmets, cleaning products used in hospitals to disinfect surfaces from deadly viruses, nicotine, soap, toothpaste, bullet-proof vests, fishing poles, protective eyewear, solar panels, bicycles, radios, fuel cells, fire hoses, carpets, mattresses, building materials, heart valves, prosthetic devices, plastic containers. The list goes on, effecting thousands of products that have nothing to do with children or children’s toys.

While the law states that the definition does not include any products regulated by FDA, such as medicines like antibiotics, oral contraceptives, all kinds of medicines used to treat a variety of illnesses including asthma and breast cancer, aspirin, penicillin and antidepressants, it’s interesting that the items are still on the list of chemicals that DEP can ban. Why put them on the list if they can’t be banned?

In fact, there are over 1,750 chemicals that may be potentially banned under the existing law, which would impact the sale, distribution and manufacture of products or services in this state. Those products and services translate into jobs.

Despite assertions to the contrary, this law is not just about children, children’s toys and the environment. It goes far beyond that. Proponents of the law are trying to convince the public at large that this is necessary to “protect the health and welfare of children.”

We agree with protecting the health and welfare of children. The bottom line is the law was written so broadly it captures many more products than children’s toys, and we think it needs to be corrected. We all want to protect kids. Let’s be sure our laws do it responsibly and not put critical jobs at risk. Bans on products need to be based on sound science and risk assessment, not intuition.

Since mid-December 2010, more than 1,000 business leaders from the state contributed their suggestions on regulatory reform at the Governor’s “red tape” audit meetings that were hosted by 30 local/regional chambers around the state. This issue is not about choosing between kids, the economy and the environment. This is about choosing all of the above. It’s about finding balance.

Maine needs to position its self to strengthen the companies we hold dear that provide critical jobs and create opportunities for new companies to emerge and startup. We cannot afford as a state to stifle investment, technology and jobs by eliminating consumer products from the market because special interests feel it is “the right thing to do” and do not base it on science. Having a list such as this presents a huge red flag to any company looking to expand or to locate in this state.

Lastly, I am a parent. Many of the companies the Maine State Chamber represents employ parents, either managing companies or working at them, or are businesses owned by parents. We all want the best for our children and are concerned like any parent for their health and well-being. However, this law goes way too far. It doesn’t make sense, and together we can make it better.

I encourage the Legislature and the Governor LePage to what’s right for Maine people, kids and the economy. Lawmakers have a perfect opportunity to correct this law now. We need balance in the State of Maine and a strong economy, not regulations that put companies out of business.

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