Safer Alternatives bill looks set for emergency implementation in Massachusetts

Massachusetts has been a leader in “Toxics Use Reduction” since 1989. Now a new state bill, wending its way as emergency legislation through the State Legislature, looks set to ramp up reductions in the use of certain toxic substances in many common household products. Designation of the bill as “emergency” seems to be a mechanism to win quick passage at a politically opportune time. Though having force only in the one state, there are few major manufacturers who will want to produce products for or two states so at least the entire US, and possibly the entire North American sub-continent, will benefit environmentally, though perhaps not so much in terms of the effectiveness or cost of products, from this legislation.

The Bill requires that the Toxics Use Reduction Institute at the University of Massachusetts produce, within 90 days of passage of the Act, a “chemicals of concern” list based on published authoritative lists of chemical categorizations such as, but not limited to, the Canadian Domestic Substances List Categorization, the European Commission’s list of substances of very high concern, Washington State’s list of Chemicals of Concern, the California Safer Consumer Products list of Chemicals of Concern, the State of Maine’s List of Chemicals of High Concern, and the International Agency for Research on Cancer’s list of carcinogens.

Criteria for listing such chemicals of concern shall include chemicals recognized as carcinogens, mutagens and reproductive toxins; chemicals recognized as persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic chemicals; chemicals recognized as very persistent and very bioaccumulative; chemicals recognized as endocrine disruptors; and other chemicals of equivalent concern as determined by the institute in consultation with the Science Advisory Board.

Industry will then be encouraged to make early substitution of less harmful alternatives. The program set up under the legislation will offer financial and technical assistance to industries to complete substitution plans. There will also be a program of public notification and labeling that is intended to discourage industry from using less safe ingredients in consumer products.

While still in draft, the huge level of support from the Mass Legislature for this Bill suggests that it, or something very similar, will likely become law in that state this year.

The Bill in its present draft is available at http://www.malegislature.gov/Bills/188/House/H235

Senator Ken Donnelly, one of the state senators who introduced the Bill, reports on its rapid legislative progress on his web site at http://www.kendonnelly.org/

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