267595 Protecting the public from carcinogens: Massachusetts House Bill no 5109

Monday, October 29, 2012

Tom Le, BS , College of Education and Health Sciences, Touro University California, Vallejo, CA
Elena O. Lingas, DrPH, MPH , College of Education and Health Sciences, Touro University California, Vallejo, CA
Background: In 1986 California passed Proposition 65, the Safe Drinking Water and Toxics Enforcement Act. Several states tried to follow California's lead, including Massachusetts. Had House Bill no. 5109 (H5109) passed, it would have required the Department of Public Health to annually publish a list of chemicals known to be carcinogens or reproductive toxins. We wanted to understand the legislation's defeat through the lens of an industry that would have been greatly impacted by its passage: the tobacco industry. Methods: We qualitatively analyzed formerly secret internal tobacco industry documents available in the Legacy Tobacco Documents Library at the University of California San Francisco. Relevant articles were identified through key word searches and snowball sampling. Results: H5109 opponents included the Grocery Manufacturers of America (GMA), Neighborhood Cleaners Association, Massachusetts Restaurant Association, Associated Industries of Massachusetts, Massachusetts Chain Drugstore Council, the Toiletry and Fragrance Association, and a tobacco sponsored coalition of multiple industries called the Toxics Working Group. The bill was given a hearing in the Joint Natural Resources and Agriculture Committee on April 18, 1989, and died in committee on January 2, 1990. Massachusetts witnesses (manufacturers, retailers, scientists, and local "mom and pops") were recruited by the GMA to testify against H5109. The industry opponents of H5109 also took their message to the public via radio and newspapers. Implications: The 1986 passage of California Proposition 65 was a major achievement for the environmental health movement since it went against strong opposition from impacted industries. Despite the work of other states, including Massachusetts, to pass similar bills in their state legislatures, chemical disclosures remain the exception and not the rule across the United States. For environmental advocates it is critical to understand the hurdles, including robust opposition, which prevented previous passage of public health protective measures to prepare for coming policy struggles.

Learning Areas:
Public health or related laws, regulations, standards, or guidelines
Public health or related public policy

Learning Objectives:
1. Explain the historical origin of H5109. 2. Describe how H5109 could have negative consequences to the opponents of the bill. 3. Discuss campaigns used by the tobacco industry in opposition of the bill.

Keywords: Legislative, Public Health Legislation

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am a graduate student and I have been conducting this research with my supervisor.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.