For many years, Kerrie Poulin has been aware of the dangers of bisphenol-A. She's read the reports. She took action.
The science, she said, is everywhere.
"I have three young kids," Poulin said. "Staying current on the latest science and health of my kids is always on the forefront of my goals for the day. Years ago, I had read about Canada banning BPA products. I immediately removed as much BPA from my house as I could. I did realize that BPA removal needed to come from a larger scale."
Like others, Poulin thought state leaders were helping. Recent remarks from Gov. Paul LePage — including a quip about women growing "little beards" from exposure to BPA — hasn't just angered them. It's left them stunned.
"I was thrilled that Maine was going to follow the others states with the removal of BPA products," Poulin said. "Environmental issues are progressive, and people are finally realizing the impact of chemicals, disease and the environment. I was seriously outraged when I read that Paul LePage was planning to lift the restrictions of BPA products. Clearly, Paul LePage is not looking at any science. If he did, he would not have made that statement. The science is everywhere."
The beard comment was making the rounds of national news shows on Thursday. Some found it offensive; others were baffled.
"I'm not sure what he's looking at," said Katie Greenlaw, mother of two. "Things can get overregulated, but when it comes to children's safety, it seems like that should be the biggest concern."
With or without the governor, Greenlaw said she's been doing her best to keep BPA away from her children, a 4-year-old son and a 2-year-old daughter.
"My son was an infant when I first started hearing about it," Greenlaw said. "It's not something I want my kids to ingest."
Several government reports have been issued questioning the safety of the chemical. A 2010 report from the Food and Drug Administration raised further concerns regarding exposure to fetuses, infants and young children. In the European Union and Canada, BPA is banned in baby bottles.
A panel convened by the U.S. National Institutes of Health determined that there was concern about BPA's effects on fetal and infant brain development and behavior. A 2008 report by the U.S. National Toxicology Program later agreed with the panel, expressing concern for possible effects on the brain.
To say that Poulin, Greenlaw and others disagree with LePage's assurances is an understatement. They can quickly refer to a number of studies that plainly identify BPA as a hazard to human health. On local, national and international levels, Poulin said, the science is everywhere.
"I have a hard time believing even the most die-hard Republican could defend his blatant disregard for the children and women of Maine," Poulin said. "As a mother of three young children, I am deeply angered by the lack of caring. Maine families are the last on this businessman's list."
Some local stores, including Axis Natural Foods in Auburn, sell BPA-free water bottles, using aluminum or glass. Enough people are interested in avoiding the chemical that an Axis worker said they have an entire rack dedicated to those alternative containers.
People like Greenlaw said they'll continue to avoid BPA, regardless of what happens with the governor's proposal.
"We make it a priority," she said, "to stay away from it."