Massachusetts legislators are filing a bill this week to protect children, families and workers from harmful chemicals found in everyday household products from window cleaner to shampoo.
For years, environmentalists have pushed for stricter laws governing chemicals, especially as a series of government and other studies have found increasing amounts of chemicals in people bodies, including pregnant women.
The legislation, called The Safer Alternatives Bill, would require businesses to replace toxic chemicals with safer ones if there are ones available. It also sets up a review system for other chemicals. This is the 6th year the bill will be filed in Massachusetts, but despite the budget woes of the state, environmentalists say they expect to make headway.
“As a father and a legislator, I am committed to better protecting children and families in Massachusetts from the toxic chemicals in every day products, from cleaners to non-stick cookware to cosmetics,” said Representative Jay Kaufman (D-Lexington), lead House sponsor of the bill. “We must break the cycle of preventable disease that starts with exposure to chemicals that can cause cancer, birth defects and reproductive disorders.”
The American Chemistry Council issued a response saying "we agree that it’s time to modernize the chemicals management program in this country" and support reform that "will keep consumers safe, preserve innovation and protect jobs. However, we believe that the right way to regulate chemicals is at the federal level.
“A patchwork of state and local laws would actually hinder an effective, comprehensive national program. Different laws at the state and local level create confusion for consumers, retailers and manufacturers, and make it increasingly difficult to do business, which in turn hampers investment and future job creation.”
The industry group also noted that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has done biomonitoring work and said that the mere presence of a chemical in the body does not mean that it will cause effects or disease.
The legislation comes as 71 chemical safety laws have been passed in the last eight years by bipartisan state legislators across the country and bills in 30 other states are filed are will be filed this year. Some bills include bans on Bisphenol A, a chemical used in a wide variety of products that has been partially banned in Massachusetts, hazardous flame retardants, requirements that children’s product manufacturers use only the safest chemicals; and resolutions urging Congress to overhaul the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) – the federal law that allows dangerous and untested chemicals to be used in everyday products and materials.
“Dozens of states around the country are coming together to update our chemical safety laws so that hazardous chemicals are replaced with safer alternatives,” said Senator Steven Tolman (D-Brighton), lead Senate sponsor of the Safer Alternatives bill. “If Congress is not going to act quickly enough to protect families in Massachusetts, we’re going to move forward at the state level.”
Last year, the President’s Cancer Panel report noted that "the true burden of environmentally induced cancers has been grossly underestimated" and called for stricter control.
"As the burden of chronic diseases linked to hazardous chemicals like cancer and learning disabilities mounts up, we are demanding leadership from officials at all levels of government,” said Elizabeth Saunders, Legislative Director for Clean Water Action, an advocacy group that is part of a coalition known as the Alliance for a Healthy Tomorrow pushing the legislation. “Toxic chemicals such as cadmium and BPA simply do not belong in every day products in our homes and workplaces, and our families are paying too high a price.”
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