BOSTON — Massachusetts companies are reducing the amount of toxic chemicals they produce and use in the state, according to a new report.
Released by the state Department of Environmental Protection, the report found a nearly 60% reduction in the overall use of toxic compounds including lead, sulfuric acid, formaldehyde and methanol between 2007 and 2019.
Meanwhile, the use of toxic byproducts dropped by 40% during that time, according to the report, while on-site releases of toxins to the environment dropped by 73%.
At least 449 facilities reported using 127 different toxic chemicals in 2019, down from 713 that reported using them in 2001.
Overall, toxic chemical use in the state decreased from an estimated 1.2 billion pounds in 1990 to 0.7 billion pounds in 2019, the report states.
“We’ve made a lot of good progress reducing the use of toxins,” said Heather Tenney, a research associate with the Toxics Use Reduction Institute at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, which compiled the data for the state.
Tenney said the program, which was created more than 30 years ago, has helped companies save money while reducing pollution released into the environment, chemical transportation risks, workplace hazards, and toxic waste byproducts.
“It’s important for people to know what’s going on in their communities, but also that Massachusetts companies are trying to reduce their use of toxins,” she said.
Researchers point out the data, which lags behind two years, isn’t a complete picture of the amount of hazardous chemicals being used here.
For example, it only covers industries and commercial operators that use more than 10,000 pounds of the nearly 1,500 toxic chemicals that must be disclosed. So smaller companies that use less chemicals or employ 10 or fewer people are not included in the findings.
State facilities, hospitals or construction companies are not included either. Additionally, the data is adjusted for production levels and other concerns that could negatively impact the overall competitiveness of the companies.
But the report’s authors point out that Massachusetts is one of the only states in the country that collects and discloses data on the use of so many chemicals.
Tenney said the goal of the toxic reduction program is to help the companies that use the chemicals to reduce their use without putting them out of business.
“We work with a lot of companies to help them find safer alternatives,” she said. “The intent is to help our companies thrive while reducing their use of toxins.”