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Chemical safety in activist push

By Jennifer Heldt Powell

Article re-printed from The Herald, September 16, 2003

Pollution is taking its toll on the Bay State's youngsters and economy,
with childhood diseases related to commonly found toxic chemicals
costing up to $337 million a year, say health activists.
Pointing to a Tufts University study on the cost of pollution, the
activists called for a law to encourage companies to use alternative
products.

``There are some diseases in children like asthma, lead poison, cancer
and birth defects that are environmentally caused,'' said Harold Cox,
chief health officer for the city of Cambridge. ``The costs are very
high. They are too high.''


Opponents to the proposed law say it won't ease the costs outlined in
the report.

When future potential lost wages are factored in, the cost tops $1
billion, according to the study by Tufts' Global Development and
Environmental Institute.

The Alliance for a Healthy Tommorrow plans to use the report in
appealing at a public hearing on Thursday for a law that would offer
state incentives to companies that agree to use alternative products.
It initially targets 10 chemicals, including those used in dry cleaning
and pesticides.

``We have to do everything we can to take toxic chemicals out of our
households,'' said Sen. Steven Tolman (D-Brighton), a bill sponsor.
``The evidence is there and it's tangible . . . how can we let our
children get sick and not provide other opportunities?''
The bill would require companies using chemicals to determine if there
were safer alternatives.

Opponents say the bill adds a costly bureaucratic process that would
drive medical-device makers and others out of the state.
``This makes Massachusetts an economic island. It unfairly discriminates
against companies doing business in Massachusetts,'' said Robert Rio,
Associated Industries of Massachusetts vice president for environmental
programs.

Furthermore, he said, the bill doesn't make clear what would be
considered a safer alternative. Some substitutes might be more dangerous
in the long run.

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