News & Events

New Report Linking Toxics to 180 Diseases Will Be Used as Lobbying Tool

By Amy Lambiaso

STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, APRIL 14, 2004…Toxic chemicals found throughout
homes, schools, businesses and in the environment are increasingly associated with more than 180 human diseases, according to a report released on Wednesday.

The report, "Chemical Contaminants and Human Disease: A Summary of evidence," produced by the Alliance for a Healthy Tomorrow, links incidences of cancers and other diseases to pesticides, manganese, mercury, aluminum, tobacco smoke, asbestos, and lead. It was compiled by three Collaborative for Health and the Environment member doctors – Sarah Janssen, Gina Solomon, and Ted Schettler – who summarized peer-reviewed studies from major textbooks and medical literature reviews. According to the report’s authors, the main causes of diseases are a combination of genetics, environment, alcohol use, exercise, smoking, and UV exposure, but exposure to such toxins is often a contributing or triggering factor.

"These are everyday exposures," said Julia Brody, executive director of the Silent Spring Institute, a non-profit scientific research organization. "I know many of these titles will challenge your spellcheckers, but these are in our homes."

At a press conference, alliance members told personal stories to kick off a day of lobbying lawmakers for passage of three bills: H.4642, directing the Toxics Use Reduction Institute (TURI) to analyze the ten worst chemicals in the state and develop safe alternatives; H.4639, requiring the manufacturers of products containing mercury to be responsible for recycling and disposing of them, and H.2966, preventing schools, hospitals and health care facilities from using cleaning products not listed on the "Healthy Cleaning Products" list to be created by the state Department of Public Health.

All three proposals received favorable recommendations from legislative
committees earlier this year.

"This is already a remarkable success story," said Rep. Jay Kaufman (D-Lexington), lead sponsor of the safer alternatives bill. Kaufman said that not enacting the legislation will cost the state between $1 billion and $1.5 billion a year in additional health care costs and missed savings.

"That number will get people’s attention, even if your heartfelt stories

The report was discounted by business leaders, who say the same chemicals have life-saving capabilities when used as protection against cathode rays on computer screens, and in certain medications. "These are extreme examples of everything," said Robert Rio, vice president for environmental programs at Associated Industries of Massachusetts. "To take the extreme position and assume that every one of these chemicals is going to cause a disease, or cancer, is a pretty extreme position to have. I think the committees fell for the rhetoric."

The report is available at