(Beyond Pesticides, June 14, 2007) State legislators in Massachusetts are working on a bill that would phase out the use of 10 toxic chemicals, create a system to study toxics and find safer alternatives. Many state, health, labor and environmental officials have long supported this bill, which attempts to remove many toxic components from products used in everyday materials.
Chemicals like those used in pesticides, wood and those found in children’s products, are especially targeted in the Safer Alternatives Bill (H. 783 / S. 558). Organophosphates, a toxic class of pesticides developed circa World War II, have been targeted in the phase out. Commonly used against mosquitoes, organophosphates like malathion (Fyfanon), naled (Dibrom) and chlorpyrifos (Mosquitomist) have been shown to be dangerous, especially to vulnerable populations, and affect the central nervous, cardiovascular and respiratory systems. The other chemicals slated for phase out have all been linked to environmental and health concerns as well and include perchloroethylene, dioxins and furans, hexavalent chromium, polybrominated diphenyl ethers, di (2-ethylhexyl)phthalate (DEHP), 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D), trichloroethylene, formaldehyde and lead.
If passed by the Legislature, the State Department of Environmental Protection will be charged with the task of setting timelines to phase out the chemicals after considering economic costs and the availability of substitutes. Industry and businesses will need to find safer alternatives to their products, or obtain a waiver from the state if no alternative is technically or economically feasible. According to Nicholas Ashford, technology professor from MIT, “safer chemicals and safer technologies are out there, and they have been out there for years, and industry has failed to adopt them.” However industries have been resisting change, claiming that useful products would be eliminated. Proponents of the bill have long demanded that the state take responsibility for protecting consumers from dangerous chemicals, since industry has not taken the initiative to remove these chemicals from the market.
“Sometimes we have to push industry to do the right thing,” State Senator Stephen M. Brewer, D-Barre, remarked at the hearing. He said that even though exceptions are normally allowed for necessary uses, industry has had to be dragged, “kicking and screaming” to make changes to provide for the safety of consumers.
Beyond Pesticides has long been an advocate against the use of dangerous chemicals such as organophosphate pesticides. For more information on safer alternatives to harmful chemicals, please visit http://www.beyondpesticides.org/alternatives/factsheets/index.htm.
TAKE ACTION: Find out what your state is doing to reduce your exposure to toxic chemicals. If you are a Massachusetts resident, contact your representatives and ask them to support the Safer Alternatives Bill (H. 783 / S. 558).