We all have a stake in helping Maine kids and families stay healthy

Children are better students, workers are more productive, health costs are reduced, and families and businesses can thrive. Maine’s future prosperity depends on our ability to drastically reduce preventable diseases and the stranglehold of health costs that accompany them.

vision-icon.png A Vision for Healthy People

Let’s make Maine a place where environment-related chronic disease and early death become a thing of the past. We can make sure the chemicals used in consumer products are safe, adequately tested, and part of a full and complete system of product reuse and recycling. We can improve the quality and safety of our air and water so they can continue to support good health and the many recreational opportunities enjoyed by Maine people and visitors. We can build our farm economy and develop new markets for organic and locally grown products that make it possible for every Maine family to have access to safe, healthy, and nutritious food. Working together, we can ensure safe resources, strong businesses, and healthy Maine people.

today-icon.png Today in Maine

Maine’s abundant natural resources offer many opportunities for Maine people to be healthy and free from chronic disease. The resurgence of Maine’s farming economy is particularly exciting. Today in Maine the demand for organic meat and produce is on the rise, with more local stores and supermarkets stocking locally grown organic food and more farmers transitioning to organic produce or starting new organic farms. The quality of Maine’s drinking water is considered excellent, thanks to Maine’s many clean lakes, rivers, and underground aquifers.

Yet Maine people also face many environment-related challenges to staying healthy. Today in Maine, only 1% of Maine’s 1.2 million acres of farmland is protected to ensure it remains in production. Too many Maine babies are born polluted from toxic chemicals that are used in so many of our everyday consumer products. Maine children experience comparatively high rates of asthma and cancer, and are at an increased risk of lead poisoning due to Maine’s aging housing stock and historical industrial activities. Maine’s air quality is also surprisingly poor in some areas - Maine’s coast is particularly hard hit by unhealthy ozone days during the summer season. This is especially concerning because Maine already has one of the highest lung disease rates in the nation.

Healthy living is important to Maine people. In a November 2009 independent statewide survey, water quality, air quality, toxic substances in products, and access to local food were among the top environmental issues that Maine people cared about “very much”. Over 84% of respondents wanted Maine lawmakers to take action on these same issues over the next five years.

needed-icon.png What's Needed

EPC Report 2010 Healthy People ChartThe path to improved health and lower health costs for all Maine people will take leadership and collaboration. Maine lawmakers have already taken some important steps, but much more needs to be done.

In the next five years, we need to ensure that the worst-of-the-worst toxic chemicals are no longer used in consumer products that expose children or found in workplaces and community environments. Information about the chemicals used in everyday products and any dangers they pose must be disclosed. Maine businesses and farms need safer alternatives to the most dangerous pesticides so they can reduce their dependence on chemicals such as organophosphates. We need to replace toxic and disposable with clean and durable. We need to make sure Maine’s “bio-based revolution” begins, making green (non-toxic) chemistry and sustainable commercial production of safe, truly recyclable, bio-based plastics and other materials part of our economy and our higher education system.

When it comes to air quality, it’s about what we burn and how we burn it. Maine needs to reduce its local sources of air pollution through renewable energy and the use of cleaner fuels and cleaner fuel burning methods. Because Maine is also on the receiving end of pollution created to the west and south, it is imperative that stricter national air quality standards be established and enforced.

Maine’s drinking water quality is best protected through vigorous efforts to reduce local sources of pollution. This means protecting our beautiful rivers from industrial poisons, our groundwater from agricultural contamination, and making sure municipal wastewater plants work properly and get the upgrades they need.

Maine also has a tremendous opportunity to expand its healthy food infrastructure. Maine needs to increase the demand for healthy locally-grown food by increasing the number of farmers’ markets and the number of large organic buyers, including Maine school systems. The available supply of healthy food needs to increase as well. We need more organic farms and more Maine farmland protected so it can be cultivated for generations to come.

hiking-action-icon.png Take Action

There are specific actions that Maine lawmakers must take in the next five years to improve health outcomes, reduce environmentally-created health costs, and support healthy people.

Toxic Chemicals

  • Designate five chemicals per year as Priority Chemicals under the Kid-Safe Products Law and implement restrictions on their use
  • Ensure that the Department of Environmental Protection has at least four full-time and staffed positions devoted to implementation of the Kid-Safe Products Law
  • Eliminate loopholes in the Kid-Safe Products Law, including loopholes that allow toxic chemicals to be used in food packaging
  • Pass the federal Safe Chemicals Act
  • Build a comprehensive and effective pesticide notification registry that gives people good information about spraying in their communities
  • Provide funding for the University of Maine to identify safer alternatives to the most dangerous pesticides
  • Eliminate the use of pesticides for cosmetic purposes on public (federal, state, and municipal) properties
  • Review the purpose and functions of Maine’s Board of Pesticides Control to ensure protection of public health and the environment

Healthy Food

  • Protect an additional 100,000 acres of farmland (10% of total farmland) through easements, farm and open-space tax law, and farm transfer planning tools
  • Maintain federal and state funding for new and transitioning organic farmers
  • Renew support for the University of Maine sustainable agriculture and Co-operative Extension programs
  • Pass a federal Farm Bill that includes funding for sustainable agriculture and rural development using bio-based materials
  • Create incentives for schools to purchase and prepare locally grown food
  • Ensure that families of all incomes have access to local, organic food, including removal of the organic foods prohibition in the state’s Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program
  • Direct Maine’s Agricultural Marketing Loan Fund dollars to the establishment of regional and mobile food processing centers

Healthy Air

  • Revise the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ozone, particulate matter, and sulfur dioxide standards to meet or exceed the minimum levels that protect public health as recommended by the EPA’s own Scientific Advisory Board
  • Develop and fund a program to replace inefficient and polluting wood stoves with EPA-certified models
  • Ensure Maine’s State Implementation Plan provides a realistic blueprint for bringing every Maine county into compliance with National Ambient Air Quality Standards

Clean Drinking Water

  • Invest at least $3 million every year in protecting and improving Maine’s drinking water systems
  • Establish greater environmental protections for lakes that are used as public water supplies