June 12, 2007
Toxics Bill Still Awaiting Action
by John Andrews, MCHC
For the third year in a row, a bill seeking to curb toxic chemicals in consumer products is before the Massachusetts Legislature. The bill is the result of several years of work by 160 health, labor, scientific, environmental, faith, and community organizations who have joined together as the Alliance for a Healthy Tomorrow. Through their efforts, more than 100 legislators have signed on as cosponsors of the bill.
Despite the number of co-sponsors, the fate of the bill is still uncertain. Powerful business lobbyists are working to see it sidetracked. At a recent State House hearing before the Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture, testimony opposing the bill was given by the Massachusetts Medical Device Industry Council, the American Chemistry Council, and the Associated Industries of Massachusetts.
Among those testifying in favor of the bill were Nicholas Ashford, MIT professor of technology and policy, who noted that laws in Europe and California have already taken steps similar to those proposed in the legislation. Joel Tickner of the UMass Lowell Department of Community Health and Sustainability, said parents should demand that the state take action against toxic chemicals that should be prohibited from households.
Legislators who spoke in favor of the bill included its prime sponsors, Rep. Jay Kaufman (D-Lexington) and Sen. Steven Tolman (D-Brighton). Tolman asserted that toxic chemicals are harming health – adding that “The evidence is true. It is overwhelming.”
Committee Co-Chairs, Rep. Smizik (Brookline) and Sen. Resor (Acton), will soon make a decision on whether to report the bill favorably out of committee. If it receives a favorable report, the bill will move to the Ways and Means Committee of either the House or the Senate.
[Note: MCHC is a member of the Alliance for a Healthy Tomorrow. See the MCHC testimony below.]
Testimony Submitted by Jill Stein on Behalf of MCHC
8 June 2007
Representative Frank I. Smizik and Senator Pamela P. Resor
Chairmen, Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources & Agriculture
State House, Room 473F
Boston, MA 02133
Dear Representative Smizik & Senator Resor,
I am writing on behalf of the Massachusetts Coalition for Healthy Communities (MCHC) to ask you to support H1286/S553, An Act for a Healthy Massachusetts: Safer Alternatives for Toxic Chemicals. We urge you to take this critical opportunity to prevent needless illness and suffering from preventable chemical exposures by supporting the Safer Alternatives Bill, and by reporting the bill favorably out of committee.
I am also writing as a physician and co-author of a public health report, “Toxic Threats to Child Development” published by Greater Boston Physicians for Social Responsibility, that has been translated into four languages and taught as a continuing medical education curriculum at medical centers across the US. As documented in this and other reports, developmental disability affects 17% of US children, and is increasingly linked to chemical and other environmental factors. Asthma affects nearly one in eight children in Massachusetts, the highest rate among the 50 states as reported by the Center for Disease Control. Yet these are only two of a variety of chronic illnesses tied to environmental exposures that affect vast numbers of the US population. According to a 2003 study produced at Tufts University, preventable illness linked to toxic chemicals costs Massachusetts residents up to $1.6 billion per year including the costs of medical treatment, special education and lost wages. Clearly the need is urgent to tackle these tragic and costly epidemics with more effective prevention.
The proposed legislation achieves this prevention pragmatically, creating a program to reduce toxic chemicals used in Massachusetts by replacing them with safer alternatives when feasible. It targets the most dangerous chemicals for which safer alternatives are available, and provides technical and financial assistance to help businesses make the transition.
It is time for Massachusetts to be proactive in ensuring the good health of present and future generations. Again, we ask you to grant this proposed legislation a favorable report. On behalf of the hundreds of activists participating in MCHC’s action network, I thank you for your consideration, and look forward to your positive response.
Jill Stein MD
Secretary and co-founder, MCHC