Toxic Chemical Dangers and Safer Alternatives

March 06, 2013

Monday, July 10, 2006 For Information Contact: Leise Jones (617) 338-8131 x204 New Study Serves as Call to Action on Toxic Chemical Dangers Study Demonstrates that Safer Alternatives are Available Now Applauding the results of the Five Chemicals Alternatives Assessment Study, the Alliance for a Healthy Tomorrow renewed its call for legislative action to protect public health from exposure to unnecessary toxic chemicals. In July of 2005, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts funded the Toxics Use Reduction Institute (TURI) at UMass Lowell to study safer alternatives for major uses of five toxic chemicals. Today, scientists, lawmakers and environmental health advocates gathered at the State House to discuss the results of the Five Chemicals Alternatives Assessment Study. The study identified safer alternatives to major uses of five widely used toxic chemicals. For example, Perchloroethylene, "perc", used in dry cleaning could be replaced with several commercially available alternatives including a wet cleaning process appropriate for most types of clothing. "Now its time to move from study to action," stated Lee Ketelsen, Clean Water Action New England Director. "Safer Alternatives are feasible for use now. Unnecessary harm is being done to the health of workers, consumers and children when common sense would dictate that we should avoid toxic chemical use whenever possible," Ketelsen said. Legislative sponsors of the Five Chemical Study and the advocates of the Alliance for a Healthy Tomorrow, a statewide coalition working to protect public health from toxic hazards, proposed the study to demonstrate that replacing toxic chemicals with safer alternatives is a feasible way to prevent unnecessary health damage. Toxic chemicals are contributing to an epidemic of chronic diseases and disorders, including cancer, learning disabilities, asthma, birth defects and neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson's. The Alliance for a Healthy Tomorrow celebrates the TURI study as a first step in a public campaign to win greater protection against toxic chemicals. Advocates called on lawmakers to pass legislation filed by Representative Jay Kaufman and Senator Steven Tolman, "An Act for a Healthy Massachusetts: Safer Alternatives to Toxic Chemicals," which would build on this study and create an on-going state program to assist and require businesses to adopt feasible safer alternatives to toxic chemicals. "We overrode a veto by Governor Romney and authorized funding for this study because we saw the need to prevent health damage caused by toxic chemicals," said Representative Jay Kaufman (Lexington). "Now we have proof that promoting and requiring safer alternatives will be a win-win proposition—protecting health and promoting innovation in the economy. The next step is to pass the Safer Alternatives Bill and keep communities safe from toxic threats," Kaufman said. The Safer Alternatives Bill would replace commonly used toxic chemicals in household products, such as dry cleaning fluids, pesticides, solvents, building materials, foam cushions and electronics, with safer alternatives where feasible. When a safer alternative is not currently available, the bill would stimulate research and development into new technologies and solutions. The bill enjoys support of many labor unions, including the AFL-CIO and the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health, for the protection it will provide against workplace exposure to hazardous chemicals. In a survey of over 25 local unions conducted by the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health (MassCOSH), it was clear that workers want information about safer alternatives to chemicals and welcome this approach to making their workplaces healthy and safe. "The few workplace standards we have assume and accept chemical risk." said Tolle Graham of MassCOSH. "We can do better for working people and their families." Advocates applauded TURI for their research on identifying safer alternatives and heralded the study as a clear demonstration that dangerous toxic chemicals are unnecessary threats to public health. "It doesn't make sense to continue using dangerous toxic chemicals when there are safer alternatives available," stated Ketelsen. "This unnecessary danger will continue until we pass the Safer Alternatives Bill and to create safe products and safe workplaces."