Reducing the use of carcinogens: the Massachusetts experience

Molly M. Jacobs, Rachel I. Massey 2 , Heather Tenney 2 , and Elizabeth Harriman 2
  • 1 Department of Work Environment/Lowell Center for Sustainable Production, University of Massachusetts Lowell, Lowell, Massachusetts, USA
  • 2 Toxics Use Reduction Institute, University of Massachusetts Lowell, Lowell, Massachusetts, USA
Molly M. Jacobs, Rachel I. Massey, Heather Tenney and Elizabeth Harriman


Toxics use reduction (TUR) is one part of a comprehensive cancer prevention strategy. TUR emphasizes reducing the use of cancer-causing chemicals by improving manufacturing processes and identifying and adopting safer alternatives. This analysis draws on 20 years of data collected from industries reporting to the Massachusetts Toxics Use Reduction Act (TURA) program to assess trends in the use and release of chemicals associated with cancer. We used a master list of known and suspected carcinogens developed from authoritative sources and a list of carcinogens grouped by their association with 11 cancer sites to analyze trends in use and release of chemicals by industrial facilities reporting to the TURA program from 1990 to 2010. The trend analysis shows that reported use and releases of carcinogens by these Massachusetts companies have decreased dramatically over time. Reported use declined 32% from 1990 to 2010, and reported releases declined 93% from 1991 to 2010 (1991 is when additional industrial sectors, including electric utilities, were phased into the program). Particularly large reductions were achieved in the use of trichloroethylene, perchloroethylene and cadmium and cadmium compounds. The analysis of groups of chemicals associated with specific cancer sites shows similar trends. Important opportunities for further reductions in many carcinogens, including formaldehyde, hexavalent chromium, and a variety of halogenated compounds are identified. Continued work to minimize the use of carcinogens can help to reduce the burden of cancer in Massachusetts and elsewhere.

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