MMEA - Massachusetts Music Educators Association

arrowBoard of Directors
arrowDistrict Chairs
arrowMeeting Schedules

arrowPast District Programs
arrowFestival Auditions
arrowFestival Registration
arrowJob Bank
arrowPhoto Album
arrowMass Music News

Suggested Text for Letter/Fax to Your Representative
Regarding House Bill H3893 - Instrument Sterilization


The Honorable (name)
Massachusetts House of Representatives
Dear Representative (name) :
I am writing to you to voice my concern about House Bill #3893 and the potential impact it will have on music programs and school systems in Massachusetts. This bill requires that all public or charter schools in Massachusetts submit all of their wind instruments to a patented process of sterilization prior to being issued to a student unless the instrument is in the original packing as a new instrument. Every instrument that is repaired would require an additional cycle of sterilization under this bill. I feel that you should be aware of the following information.

The sterilization process is patented, and thus controlled by a single provider. This makes compliance prohibitively expensive for most schools and school districts, adding tens of thousands of dollars each year to their already stretched budgets. The sterilization cost per instrument ranges from fifty dollars ($50) to several hundred dollars for larger instruments. You should also be aware that the process itself includes placing an instrument into a sealed chamber and exposing it to toxic gases. At some point post-sterilization, those gases have to be released into the atmosphere in great quantities, creating unintended or perhaps overlooked health risks far greater than that which they are attempting to prevent.

Dr. Philip Moen has researched both the health risks and this sterilization process. He presented expert testimony in June of 2011 when the legislation was in the form of House Bill 1038. His research supports my position of opposition to this bill. Dr. Moen found in an extensive search of public health and medical journal databases very few reports of respiratory illnesses attributed to musical instrument contamination, and that in each case, normal cleaning would have achieved the same results as this sterilization process. Dr. Moen's testimony further points out that ethylene oxide (ETO), the gas used in the sterilization process, "is considered by the US EPA to be mutagenic/ carcinogenic (capable of causing genetic mutation/implicated as a cancer-causing agent)."

Music educators have always taken seriously the need for sanitizing instruments, and have promoted safe, clean practices for their students. They routinely replace mouthpieces as the primary points of contact and use disinfectants to prevent the spread of contaminants. Further, they check to make sure that students maintain strict levels of cleanliness for their own instruments.

While it is true that the bill in its current revision makes the adoption of this process at the local level voluntary, it is likely that well-meaning local school committee members will adopt this policy under the erroneous assumption that they are doing so in the best interests of students. In fact, the process is unnecessary, potentially harmful, financially devastating, and creates a monopoly for the company that sterilizes instruments. I urge you to defeat this legislation.