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Hazards 60, page 4, October-December 1997

Healthy companies are opting for
Toxics Use Reduction

Sun goes down on toxins

A company's profits and even its survival might depend on dropping workplace and environmental toxins, Hazards has found. Toxics Use Reduction is good for workers and good for business.

"Sunsetting" or phase-out of toxics and their replacement with less harmful substances, processes or products is the key to Toxics Use Reduction (TUR).

The technique was pioneered in Massachusetts, USA, which introduced the first sunsetting legislation, the Toxics Use Reduction Act 1989 (TURA).

The Act says TUR is: "In plant changes in production processes or raw materials that reduce, avoid, or eliminate the use of toxic or hazardous substances or generation of hazardous by-products per unit of product, so as to reduce risks between workers, consumers or parts of the environment without shifting risks between workers, consumers or parts of the environment."

Targeted workplace substances and their toxic by-products are identified on a phase out list. Several hundred chemicals, including many metals, pesticides and solvents still in common usage in the UK, are on the Massachusetts list - creosote, malathion, carbaryl, lindane, chromic acid, chromium, lead, nickel, formaldehyde, xylene, toluene, methyl ethyl ketone (MEK), styrene, vinyl chloride.

The law worked. Between 1990 and 1995 firms in the state reduced hazardous waste by 30 per cent and the use of toxic chemicals by 20 per cent, improved their efficiency and saved millions of dollars in operating costs as a result.

In 1990, the year TURA took effect, only 30 per cent of firms subject to the law were considering changes in production processes for health, safety and environmental reasons. By 1996, this had grown to 76 per cent of firms.

Two-thirds of firms (67 per cent) pocketed cash savings through toxics reduction with a similar proportion (66 per cent) reporting "improvements in worker health and safety."

According to TURA Reports, the newsletter of the Massachusetts Toxic Use Reduction Institute: "Overall, the benefits of the program exceed the costs - $91 million to $77 million - not including human health, environmental improvements and other difficult to estimate benefits."

Other similar systems have been introduced both by statutory and non-governmental organisations in the US and Canada. US states Oregon and New Jersey both have similar laws.


Measuring progress in toxics use reduction and pollution prevention: Massachusetts Toxics Use Reduction Program, Technical Report No.30. TURI. 1996.

TURA Reports newsletter, Volume 1, No.1. TURI. Spring 1997.

Evaluating progress: A report of the findings of the Massachusetts Toxics Use Reduction program evaluation. TURI. March 1997.

All from: Massachusetts Toxics Use Reduction Institute (TURI), University of Massachusetts, Lowell, MA 01854, USA. Tel: 00 1 508 934 3346 or 00 1 508 934 3392.
Email: clarkjan@turi.org

TURI website: http://www.turi.org

Hazard classification of metallic alloys: A proposal for special concentration limits. White Paper. A paper prepared on behalf of the European Industry Metals and Alloys Classification Group (EIMAC), for the EU expert meeting to be held in Brussels on November 18/19 1996. October 1996.

Also see: Toxics Use Reduction. Hazards 53, Winter 1995/1996.

TUR advice

Trade unions wanting help putting together toxics use reduction programmes in the UK can get it from Professor Andy Watterson at Stirling University

Not entirely stainless steel

Recent experience in the metals industry shows how companies can lose out if they don't clear out their toxic substances. Their customers might leave them behind.

A briefing prepared by the European Industry Metals and Alloys Classification Group (EIMAC) noted with alarm official concern about the possible lung cancer risk of exposure to common metals including nickel, a constituent of stainless steel.

In a section on the "marketplace impact of classification" EIMAC noted: "Because of this nickel content stainless steels become classified as skin sensitisers and suspect carcinogens... resulting in very serious threats to the stainless steel industry."

EIMAC added that Ford has listed stainless steel on its restricted substances list and Chrysler had targeted nickel-containing materials including stainless steels for elimination or reduction by January 1997. And Mercedes Benz plans to develop a stainless steel vehicle body had been dropped. "This company has now decided to eliminate nickel-containing stainless steels from the project because of their classification of suspect carcinogens," said EIMAC.

"Whilst the company itself does not regard the materials as posing any risk in the workplace or in the environment, it is concerned about adverse reactions from the press, the trades unions and the public, arising from the stigma of carcinogenic classification, which could fatally undermine the project."

White goods manufacturer Whirlpool had decided to eliminate stainless steel constituents nickel and chromium where suitable alternatives are available.

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