As we kick off the 2015-2016 legislative session in Massachusetts, we have some new opportunities to make real progress towards protecting our health from toxic chemicals. Here are 5 bills that will move that goal forward:
- An Act relating to disclosure of toxic chemicals in consumer products
- An Act to protect children and families from harmful flame retardants
- An Act to require environmentally safe alternatives to harmful cleaning products
- An Act requiring disclosure of solvents used in dry cleaning
- An Act for healthy families and businesses
"Any event that starts with juice boxes has to be a good event," said Senator Katherine Clark, the lead sponsor of the Safer Alternatives Bill, as she addressed the stroller brigaders on the Boston Common.
The Alliance for a Healthy Tomorrow and many Massachusetts moms and kids came together on June 28th for a Stroller Brigade to support safer chemicals. Kids wore superhero capes and decorated cards to give to Senate Ways and Means Committee Chairman Stephen Brewer and Senate President Therese Murray, asking them to "be our hero" and bring the Safer Alternatives Bill to the Senate floor for a vote.
The groups represented at the rally were Clean Water Action, Coalition for Social Justice/Coalition Against Poverty (pictured above), Massachusetts Teachers Association, Health Care Without Harm, and Medfield Green.Read more...
"My grandfather passed away from cancer using similar products that we use [in our autobody shop] on a daily basis."
"My younger sister has Aspergers."
"Shifting the chemical industry onto a safer path actually helps the entire US economy and you'll see jobs being created."
"My dad was recently diagnosed with emphysema and he worked next to an asbestos landfill and was a mechanic for a very long time. He worked with lots of toxic chemicals."
"It's priceless the cost of your life. You can't put a dollar on life and health."
These are just a few of the motivations that brought advocates, business owners, health care providers and economic experts together at the Massachusetts State House on a July morning this summer. This powerful team came together to testify in support of the Safer Alternatives Bill which will create a program to replace toxic chemicals in our products, workplaces, and communities with safer alternatives. We captured their stories in a powerful video.
Watch the video to hear from some of these people about why they have joined the effort to pass the Safer Alternatives Bill and protect our health from toxic chemicals, then share it with your friends, family, colleagues...and your legislators.
As Kelly Johnson said, "It's time to do the right thing."
Share this video with your Massachusetts state legislators today. Encourage them to watch the video and to heed its message.
Then use one of the buttons at the top of this page to share the video with your friends.
The event that this group came together for was a public hearing on the Safer Alternatives Bill held by the Massachusetts legislature's Joint Committee on the Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture. Read more about the hearing.
"Who says politics has to be dull?" asks Kristi Marsh of Easton, who came with her 3 children to yesterday's "stroller brigade for safer chemicals" in Boston. All four Marshes, along with about 30 other moms and kids, donned superhero capes and visted the offices of Senators Brown and Kerry to urge them to be heros by co-sponsoring the Safe Chemicals Act.
The Safe Chemicals Act of 2011 (S.847), introduced by Sen. Frank Lautenberg (NJ) would increase chemical safety, inform consumers and the marketplace on chemical hazardous and protect vulnerable populations like pregnant women and children. Yesterday's event was one of 17 around the country.Read more...
The case for safer alternatives to toxic chemicals certainly ruled the day at the Massachusetts Legislature's Environment Committee hearing on Tuesday. And what a team effort it was that made that happen.
The team of 19 experts and advocates giving testimony in support of the Safer Alternatives Bill did a phenomenal job and covered a wide range of topics. Starting off the day was Tiffany Skogstrom of the Boston Public Health Commission talking about the Commission's successful program to support auto body shops in the city to replace certain toxic chemicals with safer alternatives. She was followed by Bobby Haynes, President of the Massachusetts AFL-CIO who, in no uncertain terms, debunked the industry-lobbyist-promoted myth that this bill will lose jobs in the state. Tedd Saunders, co-owner of the Saunders Hotel Group which owns and operates hotels up and down the eastern seabord backed that up by talking about his company's successful efforts to bring safer alternatives into their hotels.Read more...
Last May, the Presidential Cancer Panel presented President Obama with its annual report which confirmed that toxic chemicals are a grossly underestimated risk factor for cancer. The Panel urged President Obama to “most strongly use the power of your office” to eliminate human exposure to cancer-causing chemicals.
So far, nothing has changed. Of over 80,000 chemicals on the market today, only a few hundred of them have been tested for safety. Exposure to actual and potential cancer-causing chemicals is widespread. Toxic chemicals that cause cancer are in products like clothing, furniture, cleaning products, and plastics used by children, women, and men on a daily basis. The chemical industry continues to exploit regulatory weakness by introducing chemicals into the environment that have not been proven to be safe. Pregnant women have been found to carry toxic chemicals in their bodies, which leads to babies being born with a burden of chemicals over which they had no control. The majority of Americans are unaware of the dangers of chemical exposure in their daily lives.
Thanks to phone calls, emails and office visits from dozens of you, 78 Massachusetts State Legislators signed on as co-sponsors of the Safer Alternatives Bill by last Friday's deadline.
For those of you who like numbers, of those 78:
- 58 are Representatives
- 20 are Senators
- 63 were co-sponsors last session
- 6 are new legislators this session
- 9 are returning legislators who have not co-sponsored before
Get the full list of co-sponsors here.
One highlight is that Senator Marc Pacheco (D-Taunton) is among the co-sponsors this year. He is the new Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture where the bill will next be assigned, and thus is in an influential position to help it move forward.
You've been hearing us talk about Safe Chemicals legislation pending in Congress -- the Safe Chemicals Act in the Senate and the Toxic Chemicals Safety Act in the House -- two bills which will overhaul the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), the decades-old federal law that oversees chemical regulation. It is hopelessly out of date, and we are working hard to reform it. These bill proposals are our chance to pass meaningful toxics reform in the US that will protect our families from toxic chemicals that are currently found throughout our homes.
In the past six months, we've been asking for persistent, bioaccumalative toxics (PBTs) to be given special attention in the proposed bills.
PBTs are just a fancy way of identifying chemicals that build up in our systems, and cause problems with our health and with the environment. These are the worst of the worst chemicals like lead, mercury, the compound used to make Teflon and some flame retardants.
PBTs are uniquely dangerous because they pose a triple threat. They persist in the environment for long periods of time and can be transported long distances; they accumulate in living organisms and increase in concentration as they move up the food chain; and, they are highly toxic, often at very low levels of exposure.
When the bill proposal was first floated a few months ago, it looked like PBTs were not going to be given special consideration, despite our best efforts. We asked for your support, and many of you called Congress to ask that PBTs be included in the Safe Chemicals Act.
The House bill, (HR 5820) was introduced last Thursday by Representatives Bobby Rush (D-IL) and Henry Waxman (D-CA) and included important provisions for PBTs.
The public was heard. We thank you for all your support in helping to push through this important provision, and give a standing ovation to Representatives Rush and Waxman for their hard work. Of course, we won't rest until a strong federal bill is passed, and we are protected. It will be a tough fight against the powerful chemical industry who wants to keep the status quo and have ultimate control over secret formulas and hidden ingredients that are harmful to our health.
Here's what the states had to say about the introduction of the Toxic Chemical Safety Act:
"The Toxic Chemical Safety Act is much improved now that it includes a phaseout of chemicals we know pose serious health and environmental threats. Washington State has been targeting these chemicals for over a decade and it's time the federal government caught up. This legislation is just plain commonsense and long overdue."
- Ivy Sager-Rosenthal, Campaign Director, Washington Toxics Coalition
"The Toxic Chemicals Safety Act of 2010 follows on the heels of essential work in Minnesota to protect public health from toxic chemicals. The bill directs the EPA to take action on certain high risk chemicals that build up in the human body, like brominated flame retardants, which have been the subject of state regulation across the country."
- Kathleen Schuler, Co-Director, Healthy Legacy
"We're really pleased that this bill reflects modern science and gives the EPA additional tools to reduce exposure to PBT chemicals for all communities. It's especially important that the bill acknowledges the needs of vulnerable populations including low income communities of color that are unfairly overburdened, pregnant women, infants, workers and the elderly."
- Mark Mitchell, M.D., MPH, Connecticut Coalition for Environmental Justice, President and founding member of the Coalition for a Safe and Healthy Connecticut, who will be testifying on the bill before the Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection this Thursday.
"People have been led to believe that chemicals are proven safe before added to products we use every day, but the law doesn’t offer that protection ... Today’s legislation gives EPA both the authority and a mandate to begin making up for 34 years of neglect. Congress should seize this opportunity immediately."
- Andy Igrejas, Director of Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, a coalition of 250 environmental and public health groups.
"It's not enough to have packages that are green on the outside if what's inside is wreaking havoc on our health. We applaud Bobby Rush for his leadership on this crucial legislation and -- as the bill makes its way through the legislative process -- we urge him to fight to keep it strong."
- Sara Tamez, Campaign Coordinator, Illinois PIRG, in the Chicago Tribune.
To keep apprised of the latest news on the Safe Chemicals Acts as they move through Congress, read the Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families blog, and check back here to see how reform in the states continues to sway the national agenda toward a safer toxic chemical policy.
Last week AHT organized a BPA week of action to ask Governor Patrick for a phase-out of BPA in products for which there are safer alternatives. These products include infant formula cans and reusable food and beverage containers.
During the week of action, over 600 people called the Governor to voice this message, making the week a big success! We also received a lot of positive feedback from our supporters. Thanks to all of you who called and who recruited others to call. We all showed that when people take a little time to take action, it can really add up.Read more...
Yesterday, Governor Deval Patrick announced new progress on the phase-out of BPA baby products. He directed the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) to prepare a regulation to ban the sale of household products containing BPA. The Boston Globe published a great story today on the Governor’s announcement. This is a big step forward towards protecting the health of all developing children!
We have all worked so hard over the past two years to get to this point. Thank you so much to everyone who helped thus far. Thousands of parents across the state have expressed outrage that they unknowingly fed their infants a hormone disrupting chemical in their baby formula and your voice has been heard.
Today the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced an update to its position on BPA (bisphenol-A), the toxic chemical that we are exposed to through baby bottles, sippy cups, infant formula and food can linings and many other sources.
FDA states that there is "some concern" about the safety of BPA for humans, and that they will work with other agencies to conduct further research. In conjunction with the FDA announcement, the US Department of Health and Human Services posted tips for parents to minimize children's exposure (such as to dispose of scratched or worn baby bottles).The agency was criticized by its own science review panel for its 2008 determination that products containing BPA were safe but the new announcement says, Read more...
On Monday November 2nd the Alliance for a Healthy Tomorrow turned out in force for a hearing on the Safer Alternatives Bill at the Massachusetts State House. The hearing was held by the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture with Chairmen Representative William Straus and Senator Anthony Petruccelli presiding.
The Alliance for a Healthy Tomorrow organized a powerful lineup of experts and advocates to testify in support of the bill. Those who testified came from a wide array of constituencies and areas of expertise including business, labor, those affected by illnesses linked to toxic chemicals, faith communities, scientists, economists, environmental and public health advocates, parents, and more.Read more...
Thanks to an executive order issued by Governor Deval Patrick on October 27th, from now on the Massachusetts state agencies will be using their purchasing power to purchase products and services that are less toxic and more environmentally sustainable. The executive order directs the executive branch office and agencies to "...reduce their impact on the environment and enhance public health by procuring Environmentally Preferable Products and services (EPPs) whenever such products and services are readily available, perform to satisfactory standards, and represent best value."
This is a long awaited victory for the Alliance for a Healthy Tomorrow. Since 2007 we have been pressing the governor for specific policy proposals to reduce toxic chemical use in Massachusetts, including in the area of state purchasing.Read more...
Last week, Gov. M. Jodi Rell signed a bill that made Connecticut the first state to ban the chemical Bisphenol-A (BPA) from infant formula and baby food cans and jars, as well as the full range of reusable food and beverage containers! The BPA bill passed with only one vote cast in opposition. It was truly a bipartisan victory!
Now two Republican Governors, in Connecticut and Minnesota (did not include baby food cans), have signed laws banning BPA in children's products. The people of Massachusetts deserve the same protection as the people in these states. We don't even need to pass a law! So it should be much easier to do in Massachusetts.
A new study released online on May 12th, 2009 in the journal of Environmental Health Perspectives tested the urine of 77 Harvard students for bisphenol-A (BPA) who drank cold beverages from polycarbonate beverage containers.
The study found that one week of polycarbonate bottle use increased urinary BPA concentrations by two thirds. Thus, regular consumption of cold beverages from polycarbonate bottles is associated with a substantial increase in urinary BPA concentrations irrespective of exposure to BPA form other sources.
Why is this important?Read more...
The Safer Alternatives Bill, An Act for a Competitive Economy Through Safer Alternatives to Toxic Chemicals, is sponsored by Representative Jay Kaufman (D-Lexington) and Senator Steven Tolman (D-Brighton). It will create a pragmatic and flexible program in Massachusetts to replace toxic chemicals with safer alternatives, wherever feasible.
In this economy, the bill is needed more than ever. The Safer Alternatives program will help Massachusetts businesses stay competitive on the global market which is rapidly moving towards a demand for safer products and services. The program will be funded by a fee on toxic chemicals brought into the state primarily by out-of-state firms.Read more...
Did you know that in the United States no government body regulates the safety of cosmetics and that personal care products companies don't have to test ingredients or products for long term health effects like cancer or reproductive problems?
While over 1,100 ingredients have been banned from personal care products in Europe because of health concerns the U.S. has banned only 10.Many of the chemicals in products we use on our skin every day are linked to cancer, birth defects, learning disabilities, developmental problems and more.
That's why the Alliance for a Healthy Tomorrow is part of the nationwide Campaign for Safe Cosmetics (CSC).Read more...