Citizens Call for Alternatives to Toxics
On September 18, legislation to reduce exposures to toxic chemicals was given a hearing on Beacon Hill. A coalition of over 100 organizations (including MCHC) urged legislators to pass An Act for a Healthy Massachusetts. The legislation would seek safe alternatives for ten of the worst toxic chemicals in Massachusetts.
The ten targeted toxics are suspects in a variety of health injuries such as cancer, asthma, infertility, learning and developmental disabilities, birth defects, endometriosis, diabetes, and Parkinson’s Disease. The Act for a Health Massachusetts does not necessarily require that the chemicals be banned – instead it asks that safer alternatives be substituted for them whenever it is economically feasible.
The hearing was held before theJoint Committee on Natural Resources and Agriculture. Testimony in favor of the bill was presented by Senator Stephen Tolman, Senator Susan Fargo, Representative Jay Kaufman, experts in public health, medical doctors, and businessmen whose enterprises had succeeded in finding alternatives to toxics.
Steve Green, lobbyist for the Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM) testified against the bill. The principal objection of AIM concerned the fact that the legislation would give Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) new responsibilities while they were struggling with budget cuts. Green asserted that “The cost to DEP and the cost to the taxpayer would be too high. We have a limited amount of resources to work with. The existing (DEP) process is not flawed. It deals with making the progress it can with the resources available.” AIM is a powerful business group on Beacon Hill, spending almost $500,000 each year on lobbying legislators. Their influence on tax policy is one reason why the DEP is suffering from underfunding.
Dozens of attending organizations handed in individual testimony to the Committee in support of the legislation. MCHC’s testimony can be found below.
Testimony of Jill Stein on behalf of MCHC
State House, Boston
September 18, 2003
On behalf of the Massachusetts Coalition for Healthy Communities (MCHC), I would like to inform you of our support of H-2275 (Rep. Kaufman) and S-1268 (Sen. Tolman), An Act for a Healthy Massachusetts: Safer Alternatives for Toxic Chemicals. We urge the committee to give this bill a favorable report. This proposed legislation takes a pragmatic approach to the reduction of toxic chemicals used in Massachusetts by creating a program to replace them with safer alternatives when feasible. Such steps toward environmental health are a top priority for our group, and we are very interested in your decision on this important matter.
MCHC is a non-profit organization concerned with all aspects of building healthy communities in Massachusetts. Reducing toxic exposures is an important component of achieving healthy communities. The health impacts of toxic exposure exact a heavy toll on many aspects of community life. Dealing with the consequences of toxic injuries places an insupportable financial burden on already overwhelmed state and community budgets.
In addition to my role as President of MCHC, I speak as a physician caring for young adults living – and in some cases dying – from illnesses linked to environmental causes. I also speak from my experience as a medical educator, as co-author of a curriculum designed to update physicians on new developments in environmental health, particularly with regard to child development and chemical exposures. I am also co-author of a report entitled In Harm’s Way: Toxic Threats to Child Development which summarizes the scientific literature linking low-level exposures to toxics and developmental problems in children. This work has underscored the importance of acting to reduce toxic exposures before widespread, lifelong injuries are observed in people.
Our children deserve every chance to realize their full potential, without the burdens of toxic injuries. And our health care system, which is in fiscal crisis, should not have the additional and preventable burden of caring for people who have been injured by toxic exposures. Please act now to prevent needless and tragic toxic injuries to our children by moving this legislation forward.
Jill Stein, M.D.,
Massachusetts Coalition for Healthy Communities
For more information on the Act for a Healthy Massachusetts, visit the website of the Alliance for a Healthy Tomorrow.