New Bill Would Curb Toxic Chemicals In Everyday Products

By Sarah Birnbaum

Jul. 13, 2011

BOSTON — Environmental activists in Massachusetts are pushing for quick passage of a bill that would restrict potentially harmful chemicals found in everyday products from window cleaners to shampoo. The so-called Safer Alternatives Bill had an initial hearing Tuesday on Beacon Hill.

Environmentalists say hundreds of toxic chemicals are migrating from furniture, plastics, and food cans into our bodies, in some cases causing infertility, learning disabilities, and cancer.

They’re backing a bill that would give an existing state science panel the power to ban up to five chemicals each year by categorizing them as being of priority concern. Businesses would be forced to replace those chemicals with safer ones if they are available.

Arlington Senator Ken Donnelly says he knows the dangers of chemical exposure first hand.

“I was a firefighter for 35 years, exposed to many toxic chemicals, got sick, I had cancer. So it’s an important bill to contain the cost of healthcare, it’s a very important bill to make sure our environment is safe for our children and grandchildren," Donnelly said.

Businesses and manufacturers say the measure would drive up costs, putting them at a competitive disadvantage.

Robert Rio, of the Associated Industries of Massachusetts, says the state already protects consumers from harmful chemicals.

"It is unnecessary. It completely eradicates a system that has been in place for 20 years that has been working. And we prefer to keep that system intact and to help educate companies to use safer alternatives whenever possible,” Rio said.

The Environmental Committee's Senate leader, Marc Pacheco of Taunton says he is likely to support the bill. But it has to wind its way through both the Senate and the House, where a similar proposal has languished for more than ten years.

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