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Cancer-Causing Chemicals Used By Mass. Companies On The Decline

Saturday, June 08, 2013

 

According to a report, some well-known toxic chemicals such as perchloroethylene and trichloroethylene showed steep declines in use, 85 percent and 92 percent respectively.  

The use and environmental release of cancer-causing chemicals has been drastically reduced by Massachusetts companies, a report said on Friday, June 7th. The report, titled "Opportunities for Cancer Prevention: Trends in the Use and Release of Carcinogens in Massachusetts," was released by the Toxic Use Reduction Institute at the University of Massachusetts Lowell.

The Toxic Use Reduction Institute (TURI) provides research, training, laboratory services, and grant programs to reduce the use of toxic chemicals while enhancing the economic competitiveness of local businesses. “Continued work to minimize the use of carcinogens in manufacturing and services can help to reduce the burden of cancer in Massachusetts and beyond,” said Rachel Massey, the institute’s policy program manager and senior associate director and one of the authors of the report. “Reducing our exposure to chemical carcinogens in our workplaces, our environment and in our consumer products is one component of a comprehensive strategy to prevent cancer.”

Significant drops in cancer-causing chemicals

Over the last 20 years, reports of known or suspected carcinogens being used fell 32 percent, while report harmful releases into the environment declined 93 percent. These usage reports are required by the Toxic Use Reduction Act, or the TURA program. Under TURA, facilities in certain industry sectors that use or manufacture more than a set amount of toxic chemicals and have 10 or more full-time employees are required to report on their chemical use. They also must prepare a Toxics Use Reduction Plan to explore how they can reduce their use of toxics.

Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Kenneth Kimmell is optimistic about the development. “I am pleased Massachusetts companies are rising to the challenge to reduce their use of toxic chemicals,” he told GoLocalWorcester. “Switching to alternative non-toxic processes is a major benefit to our environment and economic vitality.”

Story not over: 500K pounds released into the environment

It is great news, but the report was clear that Massachusetts industries still have a long way to go in terms of being able to produce without depending on cancer-causing chemicals. In 2010, more than 300 million pounds of known or suspected carcinogens were used and more than 500,000 pounds were released to the environment. And approximately 100 Massachusetts residents are diagnosed with cancer each day, correlating to more than 38,000 new cases of cancer last year.

Richard E. Peltier, Assistant Professor of Environmental Health Sciences at UMass Amherst, agreed that the progress is encouraging, but there is much more work to be done. "There are some federal and state laws that prevent companies from using toxic chemicals in their production, but the issue is not quite as this,' he said. "At the end of the day, companies' products end up releasing some 10,000 chemicals a year into the market, along with byproducts from their manufacturing. We're introducing new compounds all the time into the market that we have no idea about what's in them or their toxicity. No one really knows."

 

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