Chapter 1. Introduction
The Toxics Use Reduction Institute was created by the Massachusetts Toxics Use Reduction Act of 1989 to assist industry, communities, and academia in their efforts to reduce the use of toxic chemicals while enhancing the economic competitiveness of businesses in the Commonwealth. Located at University of Massachusetts Lowell, the Institute provides research, training, technical support, laboratory services and grant programs in support of this mission.
In July 2005, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts requested that the Toxics Use Reduction Institute (the Institute) conduct a study to assess the feasibility of adopting safer alternatives for the following five chemicals:
- Hexavalent chromium
- di(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate (DEHP).
The text of the legislative mandate to the Institute is as follows:
"For an assessment at the Toxics Use Reduction Institute on the feasibility of adopting chemical or technological alternatives for the following toxic or hazardous substances: lead, formaldehyde, perchloroethylene, hexavalent chromium, and di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP); provided, that the assessment shall, for each named toxic or hazardous substance, identify:
- significant uses of the toxic substance in manufacturing, consumer products and any other applications;
- potential human health and environmental impacts;
- any alternative chemicals or technologies, both proven and emergent, and an analysis of their potential to serve as substitutes for any of the toxic or hazardous substances listed above, which shall include an assessment of:
- specific applications of any alternative chemical or technology;
- potential impacts on the environment, human health, workers, employment level and economic competitiveness of the commonwealth from adopting and implementing any alternative chemical or technology as substitutes;
- the economic opportunities or feasibility of adopting and implementing any alternative chemical or technology as a substitute including, but not limited to, consideration of the potential effects on capital, operating and production unit costs, and product price, to result from the substitution; and provided further, that the Institute shall report its findings to the joint committee on environment, natural resources and agriculture by July 1, 2006."
The Institute's sixteen years of experience in identifying and evaluating safer substitutes for toxic chemicals in industry and commerce has proved to be a valuable foundation for undertaking this project. Examples of major activities that contribute directly to our capabilities to perform these alternatives assessments are:
- Development of the Toxics Use Reduction Planner curriculum, and the training of over 1000 professionals in toxics use reduction methods;
- Establishment of the Surface Solutions Laboratory, which has done research on safer substitutes for hundreds of cleaning processes that were using toxic solvents such as perchloroethylene;
- Basic research, both in-house and with outside scientists, into new chemical alternatives;
- Establishment of the New England Lead Free Electronics Consortium to develop lead-free electronics in response to European Union (EU) directives;
- Establishment of the Wire and Cable Supply Chain Initiative, to help this Massachusetts industry group meet EU directives and adopt safer materials; and
- Ongoing policy research into alternatives assessment methodologies, in order to improve and refine the techniques used to perform an alternatives assessment.
In response to this Legislative request, the Institute refined its "alternatives assessment" methodology to evaluate the feasibility of alternatives to the five chemicals based on technical, financial, and environmental, health and safety considerations. In addition, the Institute investigated possible economic impacts on the Commonwealth of adopting alternatives.
This report presents the results of the study. It provides an overview of how the five chemicals are used, and detailed information on selected alternatives for several high priority uses of each of the five chemicals. The focus of this report is on providing factual information on each alternative that can help readers to understand the availability and potential viability of alternatives for each use. The study does not rank the alternatives in relation to one another. Rather, it compares each alternative with the studied chemical, and provides information that will allow users to make better decisions concerning these alternatives by applying their own unique application-specific criteria.
The goals of the study support the intention of the legislative request to:
- Develop a methodology for assessing alternatives;
- Involve stakeholders in setting priorities;
- Perform a full alternatives assessment for particular uses and alternatives for the five chemicals evaluating:
- Technical feasibility,
- Economic feasibility, and
- Potential environmental, health and safety impacts;
- Evaluate the economic influences that should be considered when adopting alternatives assessment strategies; and
- Produce an objective, transparent, and useful report for the Legislature, which will also be available to industry and the public.