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Mom pushes for reform of controls on toxic substance

Posted by Sarah Favot  May 31, 2011 10:01 AM

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US Senator Scott Brown (left) with Erin Boles, executive director of the Massachusetts Breast Cancer Coalition. Photo provided by Clean Water Action.

A Dedham mother and cancer activist joined celebrity spokeswoman Jessica Alba last week to urge Senator Scott Brown to support the “Safer Chemicals Act,” a bill now in the US Senate.

Erin Boles, executive director of the Massachusetts Breast Cancer Coalition, said the coalition has been working for 10 years pushing legislation to remove toxic chemicals from the environment.

The bill would require the Environmental Protection Agency to evaluate the chemicals that are of the highest health risk, reduce the risk of exposure to toxins of the highest concern, provide public access to chemical information in products, and promote safer alternatives.

Boles said Brown told her he would review the materials. She said he co-sponsored similar state legislation when he was a state senator.

Boles said the legislation is needed because research shows that humans have an increased amount of toxins in their body compared with their grandparents’ generation. She said known carcinogenic chemicals can be found in products that people come in contact with daily -- like cleaners, lawn care products, cosmetics, and personal care products.

“We believe that by eliminating chemicals that have links with breast cancer from everyday products and from the environment, that will be the step that we need to take to start lowering the breast cancer rate," Boles said in an interview. "We believe that prevention in the cure."

She said the breast cancer rate in Massachusetts is almost 10 percent higher than the national rate. One in seven women in Massachusetts are expected to have breast cancer.

Boles has a personal reason for actively encouraging legislators to monitor chemicals that are found in products. She is a 10-year cancer survivor.

She said that when she was going through radiation therapy, her doctor informed her of the risks of radiation -- one being that she would be at a greater risk for developing breast cancer -- and she was able to make an informed decision about going through treatment.

But she said that because of lax government regulation, people aren’t informed about the risks of being exposed to harmful chemicals in everyday products.

“It troubles me that every single day I walk around being exposed to carcinogens and not informed about them, and I certainly haven’t provided my consent,” said Boles.

In Massachusetts, the Massachusetts Breast Cancer Coalition and the New England division of Clean Water Action have been pushing for updated state legislation.

Cindy Luppi, co-director of Clean Water Action New England, said that about 18 other states have passed legislation that updates safety standards, and she is hoping that the wave of action on the state level will push something nationally.

Sarah Favot can be reached at

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