Face it, we all live in a “chemical swamp” as a by-product of our material wealth. Better living through chemistry has afforded us cheap and remarkably useful materials for our homes, toys, cars — and food packaging. Unfortunately, many of the chemicals used in these materials have health effects, especially for children, and there are no effective rules directing companies to test for these effects.

The Maine Legislature recognized this gap a few years ago and took action. The first chemical removed from children’s toys and baby formula under the KSPA was BPA, selected because of the volume of evidence showing its harmful effects. Its chemical structure gives it “endocrine disrupting” properties linked to cancer, obesity, reproductive health problems, and behavioral issues. BPA is unhealthy for kids of all ages, not just infants. As a pediatrician, I was encouraged by a vote that came out of the Environment and Natural Resources Committee in support of LD 1181, which would require the largest food manufacturers to report their use of BPA in food packaging. This measure would allow consumers to avoid BPA exposure in their family meal choices , and would put pressure on manufacturers to convert to alternative BPA-free packaging. This is already happening with baby foods.

I hope that this is an easy decision for our legislators to make. The bill would not pertain to Maine businesses. However, the major food processors would report their use of BPA, making sure that this information is available for the vast majority of the canned foods products used by Maine families. The legislation makes sense for helping consumers trying to wade through this “chemical swamp” — currently with no protections — by giving them some information.

Sydney R. Sewall, MD

Hallowell

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