|The Toxics Use Reduction Institute at the University of Massachusetts Lowell received $250,000 from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to assess alternatives to five toxic or hazardous chemicals. TURI will deliver the "Five Chemicals Study" to the legislature in June 2006.
The Massachusetts legislature commissioned the Five Chemicals Study to carefully consider whether suitable alternatives are available for the following chemicals: lead, formaldehyde, perchloroethylene, hexavalent chromium, and di-(2 ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP). The Study was designed to help industry, as well as those providing technical assistance to businesses, make informed choices about alternatives. Study results present performance, health and safety, and economic information on alternatives for selected uses of the five chemicals.
The TURI assessment compared the five chemicals with approximately 100 alternatives in 16 applications. For example, perchloroethylene used in dry cleaning was compared to the alternatives of wet cleaning and hydrocarbons.
Even though TURI did not assess all uses and alternatives, an exhaustive list of all the chemical uses can be found in the appendix of the report. The body of the report details all of the alternatives that were screened.
In every application studied, at least one alternative was identified that was commercially available, was likely to meet the technical requirements of some users, and was likely to have reduced environmental and occupational health and safety impacts.
TURI selected the uses to be studied based on the importance to Massachusetts industry and consumers, the likely availability of alternatives, and the extent of possible exposures for workers and the general population.
The success of the project depended upon upfront transparency and steady communications with all organizations affected by the study. TURI facilitated three meetings with a diverse group of Massachusetts stakeholders – companies, government, advocacy groups, environmental and health organizations, labor unions, and industry associations. Stakeholders had the opportunity to exchange and understand disparate viewpoints. For example, industry representatives revealed what they have done to identify and implement safer alternatives to hexavalent chromium. Labor representatives shared the concerns of workers regarding the chemicals in the study. Because of the success of the stakeholder process, the final report represents the beginning of an ongoing collaboration to find innovative, safer products.
The study also yielded important lessons about using an alternatives assessment methodology to evaluate chemicals and alternatives. TURI encourages organizations to build upon this work by using the results and methodology to pilot test alternatives and analyze other chemicals and uses.