Exploring the ever-changing landscape of environmental law

Toxics in Consumer Products

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

By Elisabeth DeLisle and Julie Taylor

Over the past several years, increasing concerns have been raised regarding the presence of chemicals in consumer products (e.g. lead in toys, flame retardants in electronics, phthalates in plastics).  It has been suggested that certain such chemicals may be associated with cancer, asthma, autism, birth defects, infertility, diabetes and other chronic and acute diseases. 

The Massachusetts legislature has been considering action to address these concerns.  The latest iteration of such legislation, Bill S. 2079, An Act for a competitive economy through safer alternatives to toxic chemicals (http://www.malegislature.gov/Bills/187/Senate/S02079), was reported out of the Joint Committee on the Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture last year and sent on to the Senate Committee on Ways and Means.  Bill S. 2079 would, among other things: require the listing and categorization of chemicals; provide for designation of two to four priority chemical substances per year; require that manufacturers notify the state of products or processes that use priority chemical substances; require research to determine whether feasible safer alternatives exist for priority chemical substances; and require MassDEP to develop chemical action plans, including plans for requiring the substitution of safer alternatives for priority chemical substances in designated priority chemical substance uses.  No further action has occurred on Bill S. 2079. 

Massachusetts is not alone in considering action to require the use of safer alternatives for toxics in consumer products.  For example, the public comment period only recently closed on regulations proposed by the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) (http://www.dtsc.ca.gov/upload/SCPProposedRegulationsNoUnderlineJuly2012.pdf) that would establish a process for identifying alternatives somewhat similar to that proposed in Bill S. 2079.  It is unclear when such regulations will be finalized.

While policymakers work, some companies appear to be making attempts to address consumer’s concerns.  For example, earlier this year Johnson & Johnson announced that it would remove certain potentially harmful chemicals from its line of consumer products by the end of 2015.  (See http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/16/business/johnson-johnson-to-remove-formaldehyde-from-products.html).    


Contact Elisabeth DeLisle at elisabeth.m.delisle@gmail.com or Julie Taylor at jt@noblewickersham.com with any comments or questions.


Environmental Law Committees

  • Air Quality and Climate Change Committee
    This committee reviews federal and local air pollution control, including source permitting, air quality planning, transportation planning, compliance monitoring, hazardous air pollutants and indoor air pollution.

    Contact Information

    Marilyn Levenson

    Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection

    Aladdine Joroff

    Harvard Law School

  • Energy and Telecommunications Law Committee
    This committee addresses regulatory and related issues affecting the natural gas, electric and telecommunications industries in Massachusetts — on the federal level and in other jurisdictions. Members typically practice before the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities, Massachusetts Department of Telecommunications and Cable, Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Federal Communications Commission, and state and federal courts.

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    Jamie M. Tosches

    Office of the Massachusetts Attorney General

    (617) 727-2200

    James M. Avery

    Pierce Atwood LLP

    (617) 488-8125

  • Environmental Law Public Policy Committee
    The BBA is very active in legislative and regulatory changes. Environmental attorneys are asked to lend their expertise.
  • Environmental Law Public Service Committee
    This committee has a number of annual service events including planting trees for Earth Day and volunteering with the Food Project. The committee also focuses on practice-specific pro bono projects and brown bag programming.

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    Mina S. Makarious

    Anderson & Kreiger LLP

    (617) 621-6525

    Korrin Petersen

    Buzzards Bay Coalition

    (508) 999-6363

  • Environmental Litigation Committee
    This committee focuses on Chapter 21E, CERCLA, insurance, clean air and clean water litigation.

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    Seth Schofield

    Office of the Massachusetts Attorney General

    (617) 727-2200

    Katherine Kimball

    Ball Corporation Headquarters

    (303) 460-2589

  • Hazardous and Solid Waste Committee
    This committee informs members about issues relating to federal and Massachusetts laws governing oil, hazardous materials and hazardous waste, including CERCLA and Chapter 21E.

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    Bonnie Heiple

    Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP

    (617) 526-6745

    John D. Beling

    Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection

  • International Environmental Law Committee
    This committee is for members interested in international environmental issues and the laws of foreign countries.

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    Stuart L. Canton

    (781) 652-0135

    Cicely Ott Parseghian

    Foley Hoag LLP

    (617) 832-3038

  • Steering Committee
    The leadership committee of the Section organizes programs and discusses policy. To inquire about opportunities, please contact the Section Co-Chairs.
  • Wetlands, Waterways and Water Quality Committee
    This committee keeps members abreast of changes in local, state and federal statutes, regulations and by-laws relating to discharges to surface water, groundwater and wastewater treatment plants.

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    Rebekah Lacey

    Anderson & Kreiger LLP

    (617) 621-6500

    Margaret M. Callanan

    Executive Office of Environmental Affairs

    (617) 626-1146