Industry Use of Asthma-Related Chemicals Declining

07/31/2009
By For more information, contact media@uml.edu or 978-934-3224

New Study Backs Need for Continued Toxics Use Reduction
 
LOWELL, Mass. ߞ; The cumulative use of asthma-related chemicals in Massachusetts declined by 27 percent from 1990 to 2005, according to a report released today by researchers at the Lowell Center for Sustainable Production at UMass Lowell, yet some asthma-related chemical usage is on the rise.

Using data available under the state’s Toxics Use Reduction Act (TURA), UMass Lowell researchers have determined that more than 350 million pounds of chemicals associated with asthma and other health problems continue to be used in the state. One chemical category that’s increasing is diisocyanates, which are used in applications such as polyurethane foam production.  The chemical is a significant cause of occupational asthma.

The analysis examined the extent to which chemicals that are capable of causing the initial onset of asthma or triggering asthma attacks are being used and released by Massachusetts industries that report chemical usage under TURA.  The report includes lists of communities with the most use and release of asthma-related chemicals.

The report recommends supporting Massachusetts industries in efforts to reduce their use and release of asthma-related chemicals by substituting with safer alternatives. The TURA program’s Toxics Use Reduction Institute at UMass Lowell has conducted trainings, workshops and research for the last 20 years to help Massachusetts companies find alternative substances and processes that are economically viable and safer for health and the environment. “After helping companies examine their use of hazardous substances and evaluate alternatives, many often make the switch to safer chemicals or processes,” said Pam Eliason, TURI industry research program manager. “It is possible to both help companies be successful and reduce disease risks.

TURI’s future ability to provide services to companies making such changes is in jeopardy as the Commonwealth eliminated its funding, rolling it into the University of Massachusetts budget.

“While progress has been made, this report serves as a reminder for decision-makers in government and the private sector to include strategies that minimize exposure to asthma-related chemicals as they look for ways to reduce the burden of asthma,” said Dr. Matthew Sadof, chair, Massachusetts Asthma Advocacy Partnership, and director of Baystate Children’ Hospital Asthma Intervention Program. “Comprehensive asthma prevention and control agendas should include researching and adopting safer substitutes for chemicals associated with asthma.” 

The full report is accessible on the Lowell Center for Sustainable Production’s Web site: www.sustainableproduction.org and on TURI’s Web site: www.turi.org.

UMass Lowell, with a national reputation in science, engineering and technology, is committed to educating students for lifelong success in a diverse world and conducting research and outreach activities that sustain the economic, environmental and social health of the region. UML offers its 12,000 students more than 120 degree choices, internships, five-year combined bachelor’s to master’s programs and doctoral studies in the colleges of Arts and Sciences, Engineering and Management, the School of Health and Environment, and the Graduate School of Education. www.uml.edu.

The Lowell Center for Sustainable Production at UMass Lowell uses rigorous science, collaborative research and innovative strategies to promote communities, workplaces, and products that are healthy, humane, and respectful of natural systems.  The Center is composed of faculty, staff, and graduate students at the University of Massachusetts Lowell who work collaboratively with citizen groups, workers, businesses, institutions, and government agencies to build healthy work environments, thriving communities, and viable businesses that support a more sustainable world. www.sustainableproduction.org