DEP Holds Public Hearing On Phthalates

Rob Poindexter

Updated 4 months ago

The Maine DEP heard from the public Tuesday afternoon as they try to decide what to do about some potentially dangerous chemicals found in ordinary household products.

The chemicals being called into question are called phthalates and they’re commonly found in soft plastic products like shower curtains, rain coats and garden hoses.

They’ve been linked to birth defects, learning disabilities, behavioral problems and other issues in kids. Whether Maine consumers have the right to know what products contain these chemicals is now in the hands of the Maine DEP.

“They’re also often used in personal care products like shampoos and lotions. A tell-take sign that your product might contain phthalates is the use of the word fragrance. That’s a catch-all term used to conceal chemicals like phthalates in products,” said Emma Halas-O’Connor from the Environmental Health Strategies Center.

A large group rallied outside the DEP headquarters in Augusta prior to the public hearing. The same group dropped off more than enough signatures on petitions to force the DEP to act under state law. They’re asking that four of these phthalates be named as priority chemicals under the Kids Safe Products Act and that manufacturers who use these phthalates in their products be required to report that to the state.

Jeff Gearhart, who works for an organization called healthystuff.org, that tests products for dangerous chemicals, was one of those who testified.

“We found 79% of the products we’ve tested have phthalates plasticizers in them that have been banned in children’s products by the U.S. Consumer products safety commission. So they’re quite prevalent in vinyl products that are actually throughout our economy.”

Paige Holmes considered herself an informed consumer. That was before she had herself tested for phthalates.

“Lo and behold I had the highest level of phthalates of anyone in the group. and higher than 90% of Americans tested by the U.S. CDC.”

Even more disturbing for Holmes, she has no idea where these phthalates came from. The public comment period ends September 29. After that, the DEP has 120-days to make their ruling.


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