Safer Alternatives Bill is Good for our Health – and our Businesses

The following is an op-ed piece by State Senator Katherine Clark:

The Safer Alternatives legislation is a common sense proposal that protects our environment and improves our health by transitioning to safer, effective and affordable alternatives to toxic industrial chemicals.

As a mom of three, I am concerned about the mounting evidence that dangerous toxic chemicals are common in household products and used on a regular basis. These chemicals include lead and cadmium in children’s toys and hormone disrupters in baby bottles and infant formula containers. While more research is needed to determine the prevalence and causal relationships, scientific evidence increasingly suggests links between repeated and increased exposure to toxic substances and chronic diseases like asthma and diabetes, as well as some cancers, birth defects and developmental disabilities.

I am proud to help lead efforts in the State Senate to pass the Safer Alternatives Bill, which aims to improve health and reduce health care costs while maintaining a competitive edge for Massachusetts businesses. This legislation supports innovation through a flexible, open and science-based process. A Science Advisory Board would evaluate chemicals based on two criteria: specific uses that damage the health of children, workers and other vulnerable populations, and opportunities to strengthen our state economy. Chemicals would be classified into four categories of risk; and each year, several chemicals at the highest level of concern would be chosen for in-depth study.

Once these priority chemicals are identified, researchers would identify feasible substitutes for specific uses of these chemicals based on an evaluation of the safety, effectiveness, availability and economic impact of the alternatives. The State Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) would also develop a chemical action plan to coordinate action among state agencies and transition industrial users of toxic substances as expeditiously as possible to safer alternatives. Collaboration with Massachusetts businesses is critical to making this process work. Our businesses would be offered technical and financial assistance to transition to safer alternatives, and priority chemicals would be selected at least two years in advance.

In addition, businesses required to undertake safer substitutions can decide what changes to make. They can file a certificate of compliance with the state, or they can apply to use an alternative substance or method. Businesses also have the option of applying for a waiver with the DEP if there is no safer alternative that is technically or economically feasible for their particular use of a substance.

This bill represents a good balance and a flexible approach. It helps our companies transition to safer chemical alternatives, but does not propose banning these substances outright the way other countries and states have done. In so doing, this bill gives our companies time to comply and assistance in getting a good result that does not harm their competitive position. In fact, jobs will be created as Massachusetts based companies become global leaders in the development and adoption of innovative, safer products and technologies.

Most importantly, working together with our businesses, we will effectively and efficiently meet our shared responsibility of improving our environment and our children’s health.

Related Topics: Katherine Clark

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