August 26th is Women’s Economic Security. It’s the anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which established the right to vote for women in America. It was a hard and long fight to win that right and on Women’s Equality Day, we also honor the hard work that continues to make sure women have full equality.
One important aspect of equality is having economic security for ourselves and our families. As we’ve said before, when women thrive, our whole economy thrives. That’s why the Maine Women’s Policy Center chose August 26th to release a set of policy recommendations titles Building a Prosperous Maine: A Roadmap to Economic Security for Women and Their Families. The recommendations would bring our workplace policies into the 21st century, meet the basic needs of working families, ensure that our children get a strong educational foundation and adults have the tools they need to support themselves, and make sure all Maine people have access to a full range of health care services.
We’ll be sharing more about these recommendations throughout the next few months and we’ll be working to turn these ideas into reality in 2015 and beyond. Support that work by making a membership gift to the Maine Women’s Lobby. You can multiply the power of your gift by making a recurring donation as a Loyal Lobbyist.
Read what the speakers at the press conference said:
Remarks by Eliza Townsend, MWPC/MWL Executive Director
Quotes from Susan Feiner, economist
Remarks by Robyn Merrill, co-chair of the Maine Working Families Coalition
Remarks by Paula Silsby, Maine Early Learning Investment Group
Remarks by Andrea Irwin, co-chair of the Maine Women’s Health Campaign
Read Susan Feiner’s Women’s Equality Day column in the Portland Press Herald: Much inequality remains as we mark Women’s Equality Day
To learn more about how you can help turn these ideas into action, contact Kathy at 207.622.0851 x3 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
On July 29th, Kathy Kilrain del Rio provided testimony by the Coalition for Maine Women before the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) in support of a new rule, Chapter 888, under the Kid Safe Products Act. The new rule would name four phthalates as priority chemicals and require manufacturers to disclose their use in products used by children and pregnant women. Following is that testimony.
To show your support for the rule, please sign our online petition at http://bit.ly/1nM6L0v and write a public comment of your own. It’s easy. Write your comment and be sure to:
Testimony by Kathy Kilrain del Rio before the Maine Department of Environmental Protection
in support of the proposed rule Chapter 888,
Designation of Four Members of the Chemical Class Phthalates as Priority Chemicals
July 29, 2014
Good afternoon. My name is Kathy Kilrain del Rio, and I am the Director of Program and Development for the Maine Women’s Lobby, which advocates for Maine’s 678,000 women and girls. I am also here as a representative for the Coalition for Maine Women, a network of organizations working to improve the social, economic, and political status of women and to promote the equality of all Maine citizens.
Women have a unique stake in the movement to end the ubiquitous toxic exposure from our consumer products. In creating the Kid Safe Products Act, legislators recognized the repercussions of exposure to toxic chemicals on pregnant women, and included them among the law’s protected groups. Research is continuing to demonstrate that pregnancy makes women’s bodies more susceptible to the toxins in our environments. This susceptibility threatens the health of a woman’s pregnancy and shows long-lasting results on fetal development. That is why the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists announced publicly in 2013 that reducing exposure of pregnant women to environmental toxins was critical to preventing birth defects. Specifically, in the College’s publication “Exposure to Toxic Environmental Agents”, it stated that the evidence of prenatal exposure to phthalates correlated to impaired neurodevelopment in girls and shortened gestational age, among other reproductive and behavioral difficulties. In the same publication, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists urged health care professionals to educate themselves about harmful exposures to toxics to help patients avoid their negative effects. Unfortunately, even the most educated doctors are not privy to information about the use of phthalates in products in order to help their pregnant patients avoid phthalates because manufacturers are not required to make it available.
Doctors counsel pregnant women to be careful about coming into contact with certain substances, eating certain kinds of food, and avoiding specific activities that are known to be harmful. But women can’t make healthy choices when they don’t know which products contain phthalates. As you heard earlier today, even women who are educated about the harmful effects of toxic chemicals like phthalates and are mindful about reducing their exposure to those chemicals, found levels of phthalates higher than the national average when they had their bodies tested last winter.
Women and all consumers need more information on the use of phthalates so they can make healthy and responsible choices for themselves and their families. Without knowledge of where we can find these chemicals, Maine women are left completely in the dark, unable to control this very basic aspect of our health and the health of our families. For these reasons, we urge you to pass the proposed rule Chapter 888. Thank you.
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. 2013. Exposure to Toxic Chemicals. Accessed July 26, 2014 http://www.acog.org/~/media/Committee%20Opinions/Committee%20on%20Health%20Care%20for%20Underserved%20Women/ExposuretoToxic.pdf
 Alliance for a Clean and Healthy Maine. 2014. Hormones Disrupted: Toxic Phthalates in Maine People. Accessed July 29, 2014 http://www.cleanandhealthyme.org/Home/HormonesDisrupted/tabid/158/Default.aspx
On Tuesday, July 29th, Paige Holmes testified before the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). Paige is a mom of two young boys and a member of the Board of Directors for the Maine Women’s Lobby. Earlier this year, she learned that she had levels of toxic phthalates in her body that were higher than 90% of all Americans. She was shocked because she is an avid label reader and tries to avoid products that might have phthalates in them. But it’s impossible to know for sure which products have phthalates because manufacturers are not required to disclose their use in products.
That could change if the DEP adopts a new rule, Chapter 888. The rule, which was initiated by Maine citizens who collected over 2,000 signatures this spring, would name four phthalates as priority chemicals under the Kid Safe Products Act. If adopted, the rule would require manufacturers to disclose the use of phthalates in products used by children and pregnant women. This would provide important information for Maine parents, business owners, and health professionals.
Following is Paige’s testimony from the hearing. You can learn more about the 25 Mainers who were tested for phthalates by reading Hormones Disrupted: Toxic Phthalates in Maine People.
Add your voice to Paige’s by signing our online petition in support of the rule and writing a public comment at http://bit.ly/1nM6L0v.
The press conference and public hearing were covered by several news outlets, including:
Testimony by Paige Holmes in support of Chapter 888, to Name 4 Phthalates as Priority Chemicals
Commissioner Patty Aho and DEP Staff,
My name is Paige Holmes, I live in Lisbon, and am the Development Director for The Public Theatre in Lewiston.
Like many of the participants in this study I am a mom with young children. I have 2 wonderful boys. Owen is 2, and Mason just turned 7. I decided to participate in the study out of concern for their health – if I am exposed to any chemical, my sons are probably exposed too.
I thought that I was ahead of the curve when it came to protecting my family against harmful chemicals, as limiting our exposure is something I have been working on since I became pregnant with my first child.
We try to eat primarily organic and local foods. I try to avoid plastic food containers and use glass or stainless steel instead. I have replaced a lot of household cleaners with vinegar and water or baking soda solutions. I even use cloth shower curtains instead of plastic ones, specifically to avoid phthalates.
What I learned from this study made my jaw drop: despite everything I’ve done to proactively protect my boys from harmful chemicals, I had the highest total level of phthalates in my body out of anyone in the group. In fact, my levels were higher than levels found in 90% of all Americans tested by the US CDC.
The type of phthalate that was detected in my body at such a high level was diethyl phthalate, or DEP. (Pronounced DYE – Ethel).
The recently released Chronic Hazard Advisory Panel report that Dr. Rice just talked about says the following about the phthalate DEP on page 109:
“There are indications from epidemiological studies that DEP exposures are associated with reproductive and developmental outcomes. These observations take precedence over findings in animal experiments for which comparable effects could not be recapitulated and suggest that harmful effects in humans have occurred at current exposure levels. There is, therefore, an urgent need to implement measures that lead to reductions in exposures, particularly for pregnant women and women of childbearing age.”
So in other words, the US Consumer Product Safety Commission has stated there is an urgent need to reduce exposure to DEP particularly for women of my age.
The report also concludes that products marketed to children are not the major source of the phthalate DEP. Protecting women like me starts with gathering information about phthalates in the myriad other products that we are exposed to in our homes.
Where is my exposure to DEP and other phthalates coming from? The most frustrating thing for me, as a mother, is not being able to answer that question. That information is almost non-existent. Like most people I use some products every day that might contain phthalates: hand soap, lotion, make up.
But phthalates are not listed on the labels of products. In fact, manufacturers use the term “fragrance” on a label to hide any number of chemicals, including phthalates, which might be in the product. So, despite being an avid label reader – I am left in the dark – unable to protect my family from these harmful chemicals.
As a mom with two young sons, learning my results in this study was really frightening. I know that phthalates have particularly adverse health effects on baby boys. Including reduced testosterone levels, birth defects of male sex organs, breast growth in boys, and increased prostate and testicular cancer.
I also understand that phthalate exposure is linked to many of the issues that educators, like my mom and sister, see more and more every day: learning disabilities, asthma, behavioral and attention issues. Because of their smaller size, children are exposed to higher concentrations of phthalates pound for pound than adults.
Maine has a clear opportunity to act. At the Federal level our chemical safety system is based on a law that is 40 years out of date. That is criminal. Here in Maine, the Department of Environmental Protection has the authority under the Kids Safe Products Act to put in place measures that will protect us.
The bottom line is that there is clear and overwhelming science about phthalates and their dangerous impacts to human health. I’m here to ask the Maine Department of Environmental Protection to adopt chapter 888. We all have the right to know what is in our products so that we can protect our loved ones and ourselves.
For more information about how you can get involved on this issue, contact Kathy at 207.622.0851 or email@example.com.
This June, the Supreme Court unanimously struck down a Massachusetts law that instituted zones outside reproductive health care facilities to provide a buffer for patients from harassment, intimidation, and the threat of violence from protesters. This decision goes against previous decisions by the Court in which similar buffer zones were upheld as necessary to protect those seeking medical care.
What the Decision Means for Women in Massachusetts:
Massachusetts has had a history of intense protest, patient intimidation, violence, and even two tragic murders outside the reproductive health care facilities that these buffer zones were to protect. The Massachusetts Legislature had first enacted smaller zones which provided more flexibility for protesters, but after only a few years it was clear these zones were not serving their intended purpose and patients were still facing the same issues trying to access reproductive healthcare services. The 35-foot zone was enacted to address the problems that still existed.
In striking down this law, the Court ignored the extensive record documenting the behavior of protesters and held the zone was not drawn narrowly enough to protect the protesters’ First Amendment right to free speech. The unanimous majority ignored women’s right to reproductive healthcare and abortion and left them without protection from those who seek to prevent them from accessing such services.
What the Decision Means for the Nation:
The Court’s holding—that the buffer zone was not drawn narrowly enough—means that across the country similar laws and ordinances will likely be struck down or repealed. Here in Maine, we already saw the Portland City Council repeal the buffer zone outside the Planned Parenthood clinic even while a federal court case was pending on its constitutionality. Those, unlike the Court, who understand the impact this ruling has on women in Massachusetts, Maine, and elsewhere are scrambling to find solutions to ensure all women can access reproductive healthcare services.
Massachusetts acted quickly by passing new legislation, which, as of this writing, is waiting for the governor’s anticipated signature to become law. The bill provides law enforcement greater ability to disperse problematic protesters, but does not have the same preventative power that the buffer zone did.
Limiting women’s right to reproductive healthcare:
The Robert’s Court is one of the most ideologically conservative courts in living memory and it is chipping away at women’s right to access reproductive healthcare. In 2007, in Gonzales v. Carhart the court upheld a federal ban on a certain type of abortion despite the fact that the law made no exceptions for cases where the women’s health is at stake. This year, in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby the court said because the religious owners of some corporations believed certain contraceptives were “abortifacients” they did not have to provide coverage of them for their employees and limited women’s access to contraceptive care. Further, in McCullen the Court struck down the buffer zones making access to abortions at reproductive healthcare facilities more challenging for women who are already facing a potentially stressful and emotional decision to choose abortion.
The ultimate concern is that the Court will overturn Roe v. Wade, but for now that remains a thing of nightmares, not reality.