News & Events

The environmental connection for health and safety

From the Massachusetts Nurse Newsletter
March 2005 Edition

By Evelyn Bain, M Ed, RN, COHN-S
Associate Director/Coordinator, Health & Safety

Congress on Health and Safety has maintained a relationship with the Alliance for a Healthy Tomorrow (AHT) since its inception several years ago. Many of the issues that AHT addresses; toxics use reduction, substituting less toxic environmental cleaning products, eliminating products containing mercury and pesticide use reduction, directly and indirectly impact the health and well being of nurses, their families and their patients. The legislative agenda for AHT is outlined below.

The MNA Congress on Health and Safety supports this legislation and urges MNA members to become familiar with it and to follow information on the AHT Web site as well as the Massachusetts Breast Cancer Coalition (MBCC) Web site

Consult these Web sites frequently for opportunities to actively participate in educating others, testify at legislative hearings and call your legislators about how these issues impact your health and the health of others.

Most importantly, the valuable information provided by both AHT and MBCC can be used to protect your health and the health of those you love and care for.

Alliance for a Healthy Tomorrow

The Alliance for a Healthy Tomorrow is a coalition of citizens, scientists, health professionals, workers, and educators seeking preventive action on toxic hazards. Our goal is to correct fundamental flaws in government policies that allow harm to our health and environment. We will create proactive policies to prevent harm before the damage is done and to choose the safest alternatives. We invite you to be a part of this critical effort.

We understand that the world cannot be "risk-free," but we know there are safer alternatives to many toxic technologies and products in use today. Industrial progress has brought us many advantages, but we can make even further progress toward a healthier environment. Currently, we are supporting three key pieces of legislation as well as launching a campaign asking Governor Romney to issue an executive order requiring the substitution of certain chemicals found in hundreds of toys, cleaning products, cosmetics and pesticides.

Legislative priorities 2005

An act for a healthy massachusetts: safer alternatives to toxic chemicals

Sponsors: Sen. Steven Tolman, Rep. Jay Kaufman

Purpose: Protect our health and develop a healthy economy.

Scientific evidence increasingly indicates a wide array of toxic chemicals in our everyday lives are contributing to an epidemic of chronic disease and disorders, including: asthma, birth defects, cancers, developmental disabilities, diabetes, endometriosis, infertility, Parkinson’s disease, and others. Yet many of these toxic chemicals can be replaced with safer alternatives. The Safer Alternatives bill establishes a unique program to promote these alternatives, thus helping to protect our health.

Choosing safer alternatives will not only help prevent widespread suffering, it will also reduce the burden on our economy of preventable high health care and special education costs and lost productivity. Innovative industries and green chemistry can create the safer products and sustainable jobs that are increasingly demanded in today’s economy. The European Union and other countries have already adopted more health protective requirements for products and over 37 percent of Massachusetts trade is with the European Union’s member states. This Safer Alternatives program will assist Massachusetts businesses in competing in the global marketplace.

An act to reduce asthma by using safer alternatives to cleaning products

Sponsors: Rep. Frank Smizik, Sen. Dianne Wilkerson

Purpose: The purpose of this bill is to reduce asthma and other health threats from emissions of toxic chemicals from cleaning products used in schools, hospitals and other health care facilities, day care centers, public buildings, and public housing.

An act relative to safer alternatives for mercury-containing products

Sponsors: Sen. Susan Tucker, Rep. Douglas Petersen

Purpose: Passage of this bill supports the regional strategy, set by all New England Governors, to reduce mercury emissions 75 percent by 2010 and for eventual zero mercury emissions in New England. Similar legislation has been enacted in Maine (2003), Rhode Island (2001) and Connecticut (2002).

Safer Mass. executive order

The central concept of this executive order is to enforce existing regulations that could replace toxic chemicals with safer alternatives wherever feasible. The concept of safer alternatives, often referred to as "the substitution principle," is a proactive process to replace identified dangerous environmental exposures with existing safer alternatives rather than to react to the damages that result from these toxic exposures—measaures that can be taken to make our lives safer now.

The good news is that safer alternatives to many toxic chemicals already exist and that innovation to implement safer alternatives can make our workplaces and communities safer, can create savings in health care and special education costs, and strengthen the competitiveness of our economy all at the same time.

We call for substitution policies to be implemented in three areas:

  • Consumer products through existing Department of Public Health regulations.
  • Industry through full implementation of the Toxics Use Reduction Act.
  • State agency purchasing standards for healthier cleaning products and integrated pest management to eliminate the use of pesticides.

Safer products

The scientific evidence is overwhelming that common ingredients in consumer products are linked to human illness and disabilities. Yet, consumer products remain a largely unregulated route of exposure to toxic chemicals. Based on research on toxic chemicals in products, existing state statutes, and policies adopted in other states or countries, we propose that the Department of Public Health take regulatory action to protect public health from toxic chemicals in cosmetics, pesticide products, and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) products.

Substitution in industry

While the Toxics Use Reduction Institute housed at UMass Lowell has been extremely successful at helping industries in the commonwealth to reduce the use and emission of toxic chemicals, often through substitution, many opportunities to replace toxic chemicals with proven safer alternatives have not been utilized. We propose the full implementation of the TURA law to reduce or eliminate the use of five of the high hazard chemicals identified by the TURA Science Advisory Board: Hexavalent Chromium, Formaldehyde, Lead, Trichloroethylene (TCE) and Perchloroethylene (Perc), through substituting safer alternatives.

Healthier state agency practices State agencies’ use of toxic chemicals puts both their employees and the public at risk. State agencies can build on their own model programs and adopt exemplary standards that favor healthier cleaning products and integrated pest management to eliminate the use of pesticides.

If you are not already a member of the Healthy Tomorrow network, sign up at Your activism is instrumental to achieve success with this legislation and executive order. We have the power to achieve success and you are key to that victory. By actively joining our network, we will keep you posted on our progress and let you know when your voice will be most helpful as we work together towards a healthy tomorrow.