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Massachusetts Toxics Use Reduction Act Shortlisted for International Award

Contact: Karen Angelo, karen_angelo@uml.edu, 978-430-6303

TURA is the Only Policy from the U.S. that Made the Cut

Lowell, Mass., Thursday, June 17, 2021 -- The Massachusetts Toxics Use Reduction Act (TURA) is among 12 policies from five continents shortlisted for the Future Policy Award 2021.

Awarded by the German-based World Future Council, the prize celebrates the most effective policy solutions that minimize the adverse health effects of exposure to chemicals on human health and the environment. In total, 55 policies from 36 countries were nominated in November 2020. TURA is the only policy from the United States that made the latest cut.

“It’s a great distinction for Massachusetts that TURA was shortlisted for this international award,” says Jay Kaufman, founder of the Beacon Leadership Collaborative, who served in the Massachusetts legislature for 24 years. “To be recognized worldwide for an innovative policy that’s proven to work says a lot about Massachusetts as an environmental leader that supports the economy. TURA proved that you can have both.”

The annual award, often referred to as the Oscar on Best Policies, is the first and only award that celebrates policies for the benefit of present and future generations on an international level.

TURA was selected in the category of Chemicals Across the Lifecycle. The program was recognized for its innovative structure and its success in working with large and small businesses to protect health and the environment while boosting competitiveness. Data show that companies in Massachusetts have reduced toxic chemical use by 325 million lb, waste by 7 million lb and releases to the environment by 4 million lb. Over its 30-year history, more than 1,200 trained professionals (Toxics Use Reduction Planners) have helped businesses prepare toxics use reduction plans and advance the assessment of safer alternatives.

“It is a great honor to have such an important part of the Massachusetts environmental policy be recognized on an international level,” said state senator Jamie Eldridge (D-Acton). “Past actions by corporations and industry have shown that this type of legislation is badly needed to protect public health and safety. TURA has been that voice for the public and has brought innumerable benefits to Massachusetts residents and businesses for over a quarter of a century. It is my hope that TURA’s calls for transparency, safety and accountability will echo beyond the Commonwealth.”

Under TURA, businesses that use large amounts of toxic chemicals are required to report toxic chemical use, conduct toxics use reduction planning every two years and pay a fee. The fees support the work of the TURA implementing agencies – the Toxics Use Reduction Institute at UMass Lowell, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection and the Office of Technical Assistance and Technology. Through these agencies, companies and communities receive a wide variety of services, including training, grant programs, research, lab testing and technical assistance.

Through the planning process, businesses can identify ways to reduce or eliminate toxic chemicals. For example, Morgan Advanced Materials, a manufacturer of ceramic feedthroughs for medical and aerospace markets, recently worked with the TURA program to eliminate its use of a toxic solvent, trichloroethylene (TCE). The facility switched from a solvent-based industrial cleaning system to ultrasonic, water-based system using borax and baking soda. A grant from the TURA program helped make the switch possible, and the company is now enjoying savings of $30,000 per year, as described in this video.

Success stories like this have sparked international interest in the TURA model. “There is great potential for other countries to replicate what TURA has accomplished in Massachusetts,” says Prof. Emeritus Ken Geiser of UMass Lowell, one of the architects of the law who collaborated with industry, environmental advocates and policymakers. “We had the idea that by reducing toxics at the source, companies would save money and protect worker health and safety, and it worked.”

“The TURA program is a gem,” says Joel Tickner, Co-Director of the Toxics Use Reduction Institute and Professor of Public Health at UMass Lowell. “It is a global model of well-designed policy that is sustainable and achieves ambitious environmental and health goals by driving innovation through a combination of regulatory requirements, research, collaboration, technical support, and capacity building.”

The World Future Council organized the award in partnership with the United Nations Environment Programme, the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management, the International Labour Organisation, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the United Nations Institute for Training and Research and the United Nations Development Programme.