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Pollution prevention and the work environment: the Massachusetts experience.

Roelofs CR; Moure-Eraso R; Ellenbecker MJ
Appl Occup Environ Hyg 2000 Nov; 15(11):843-850
In 1989, Massachusetts enacted the Toxics Use Reduction Act. The Act defined toxics use reduction, also referred to as pollution prevention, as "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-product per unit of product ... without shifting risks between workers, consumers or parts of the environment." The investigators sought to understand to what extent worker health and safety concerns have been integrated into toxics use reduction activities and how these activities have affected the work environment. The authors reviewed 35 published case studies of toxics use reduction in Massachusetts companies and interviewed key personnel including the staff of the Massachusetts Office of Technical Assistance for Toxics Use Reduction. Overall, between 1990 and 1997, Massachusetts companies decreased their use of toxic chemicals by 24 percent and decreased their volume of toxic by-product by 41 percent. In almost 50 percent of the cases analyzed, improved worker health and safety was cited as a benefit of the toxic use reduction projects. Solvents were eliminated or reduced in 63 percent of the cases. Forty-six percent of the companies profiled introduced water-based chemicals in place of more volatile ones; and acids and caustics were reduced or eliminated in 20 percent of the cases. The investigators concluded that toxics use reduction activities have resulted in improvements to the work environment, but that such improvements were rarely a direct concern of these efforts, thus creating the potential for new negative worker health and safety impacts and missed opportunities to coordinate environmental and worker health and safety improvements. The authors recommend that technical assistance agencies and companies better integrate worker health and safety issues and pollution prevention activities.
Pollution; Work-environment; Toxins; Hazardous-materials; Toxic-materials; Risk-factors; Worker-health; Health-hazards; Solvents; Author Keywords: Pollution Prevention; Toxics Use Reduction; Technical Assistance; Prevention; Substitution; Controls
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Applied Occupational and Environmental Hygiene
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University of Lowell Research Foundation, Lowell, Massachusetts
Page last reviewed: September 2, 2020
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division