Massachusetts Considers Toxics Legislation

Published August 1, 1997

Massachusetts state legislators are considering a bill that would require the state’s Department of Public Health to create and make available to the public a Toxic Effects Warning List. Appearing on the list would be substances known to cause cancer, reproductive toxicity, and other toxic effects, as well as neurotoxins or mutagens currently listed on the state’s hazardous substance list (the Massachusetts Substances List).

Like California’s Proposition 65, the proposed “Massachusetts Citizen’s Right to Know Act” would require manufacturers to place warning labels on products containing the listed substances.

The language of the proposed Massachusetts legislation is ambiguous, making it difficult to gauge whether a substance not currently listed on the Massachusetts Substances List will or should be added to the new Toxic Effects Warning List. According to the bill, a substance can be added to the Warning List by the Department if the substance has been shown through substantial and valid scientific evidence, according to generally accepted principles, to cause cancer, reproductive toxicity, neurotoxicity, or other toxic effects.

Observers of the Massachusetts debate are primarily concerned by the possible listing of many products considered to have “other toxic effects” that are not yet scientifically validated, such as endocrine disruption. The bill would require that manufacturers prove that a substance should not be listed, rather than placing that burden on Department officials proposing listing for a substance.

The legislation is likely to be reported out of committee soon and may be put to Massachusetts voters on the November 1998 ballot. The filing deadline for placing the issue on the ballot is August 6.

PF: More information on toxic chemicals is available through PolicyFax. Call 847/202-4888 and request documents #2315126 (“Endocrine Disruption: Searching for Answers,” Chemical Manufacturers Association, 1997, 3 pages); and #2315129 (“Forget Chemical Use, Let’s Report Risk!” Harvard Center for Risk Analysis, 1997, 2 pages).