Resor/Spilka: Safer alternatives to toxic chemicals

Sen. Pamela P. Resor and Sen. Karen E. Spilka

Were you one of the many shoppers who took a second look at the toys, cosmetics, and other products you bought this holiday season? Did you wonder if the items you put under the tree might contain toxic substances? Are you worried about toxic chemicals in the products you buy? If so, you are not alone.

In recent months, the media has opened our eyes to the problem of lead in some children's toys, as well as in personal care products like lipsticks. Before hearing these stories, most of us believed that our federal government protected us from hazardous materials in the food and consumer products that we bring into our homes.

But unlike in the world of medicine, where most drugs require an FDA safety clearance before they can be marketed, federal laws do not prevent many toxic chemicals - some of which are linked to cancer, genetic damage, nervous system abnormalities and birth defects-from being used in products that we handle everyday.

You may be shocked to know that, at birth, the average newborn baby's umbilical cord blood contains traces of 200 toxic chemicals. Children and adults also test positively for a wide range of chemicals.

A number of recent studies suggest that diseases and disorders with links to these toxic substances are on the rise. These illnesses cost all of us in terms of personal health risks, health care expenses and loss of productivity in the workplace.

To date, the federal government has not stepped in and set up a program to encourage safer alternatives to toxic chemicals. It has not even required businesses to list the substances used in a product so the public can make educated purchases.

We believe that the Massachusetts legislature must act to protect the citizens of the Commonwealth if the federal government will not. That's why we are cosponsors of Senate Bill 2406, An Act for a Healthy Massachusetts: Safer Alternatives to Toxic Chemicals.

This legislation proposes a scientific, fact-based process to identify the worst chemicals, and to study and encourage safer substances in products on store shelves. We are working hard with our colleagues to ensure this bill will be debated on the Senate floor in early 2008.

This program isn't just good for public health. It is also good for Massachusetts businesses, whose greener products will be valued in the global economy as large markets in the United States and overseas "go green."

Please join us in supporting Senate Bill 2406. Let's make it our New Year's resolution to reduce the toxic chemicals in our lives.

Sen. Pamela P. Resor, D-Acton, and Sen. Karen E. Spilka, D-Ashland, represents communities in the Middlesex, Norfolk and Worcester districts.