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TURI Awards Grants to Industry, Small Business, Community Groups and Academic Researchers

Contact: Karen Angelo, karen@turi.org, 978-430-6303

Lowell, Mass., Wed. Sept. 19, 2018 – The Toxics Use Reduction Institute (TURI) awarded $218,000 in grants to reduce the use of hazardous solvents, cleaning agents, lead and other harmful chemicals.

The 14 funded project teams include Massachusetts industries, small businesses, community groups and UMass Lowell researchers in partnership with industry. TURI awarded grants to:

Industry

Kettle Cuisine of Lynn, a maker of small batch, all natural soups for restaurants, foodservice operators and grocery retailers, was awarded a second-year TURI grant to continue its work with UMass Lowell’s Food Safety Lab to reduce the use of sodium hydroxide. The toxic chemical, which is used to clean the food processing tanks, is corrosive to the eyes, skin and the respiratory tract. The first year of the grant determined how the facility could optimize their use of the cleaning chemical, thereby reducing volume, and identified potential alternatives. The second year of funding will support UMass Lowell students testing the safer alternatives in the field to determine effectiveness.

Lab testing for Lytron

Lytron Inc. of Woburn,a designer and manufacturer of cold plates, chassis, chillers, cooling systems and heat exchangers, was awarded a second-year TURI grant to eliminate the use of trichloroethylene (TCE) from its copper cleaning line. Acute exposure to TCE vapors can cause central nervous system anomalies and other adverse physiological effects. Lytron is using TURI Lab services to test the performance of safer alternatives that will effectively clean copper under this grant cycle – focusing on identifying a water-based or enzymatic cleaning solution. This work builds on Lytron’s commitment to provide the safest work environment for employees and the community.

Morgan Advanced Ceramics of New Bedford, amanufacturer of ceramic feedthroughs for medical and aerospace industries, aims to eliminate the use of TCE used in a vapor degreaser. The company will purchase a water-based cleaning system that’s expected to eliminate 3,300 lbs. of TCE use per year. By not using TCE, the company expects to save $10,000 per year, improve worker health and safety and reduce regulatory obligations.

MSI Transducers Corp. of Littleton, adesigner and manufacturer of acoustic transducers used for a variety of commercial and defense applications, expects to significantly increase production within the next five years. In anticipation of this growth, the company aims to reduce its use of lead and lead waste generated in the manufacturing process by re-engineering two injection molding tools. 

Small Businesses

Auto Repair Shop at Assabet Valley Technical High School of Marlboro will replace toxics that are currently used to clean vehicle parts. The project team will purchase bio-based part washing systems that will reduce chemical exposures for high school students and their instructors and teach them environmentally friendly practices. The project team estimates that they will reduce the use of perchloroethylene and other solvents by 92 gallons per year and will save over $3,000 annually.

Pilgrim Cleaners of Haverhill & Dory Cleaners of Swampscott will convert their dry cleaning shops from using perchloroethylene (perc), a known human carcinogen listed as a Higher Hazard Substance in Massachusetts, to professional wet cleaning technology. This safer alternative allows the small businesses to clean “dry-clean-only” clothes with water and detergents in computer-controlled machines. Workers then use tensioning and pressing equipment to achieve high- quality results.

Academic Researchers

Prof. Ram Nagarajan of the Department of Plastics Engineering is partnering with Bradford Industries of Lowell for a second year to find and evaluate safer solvent blends to replace the use of the toxic solvent dimethylformamide (DMF) in textile coatings. In phase one, the research team identified combinations of safer and effective solvents that dissolve the target polymer used by the company. The goal of the second phase is to vary the relative ratios of solvents in the mixtures to meet the company’s performance and cost requirements.

Assistant Prof. James Reuther of the Chemistry Department aims to find a safer and more effective nail polish remover for methacrylate-based gel nail polish. Gel nails are popular with customers due to a harder surface that reduces chipping and extends nail polish life. However, the removal of the polish requires application of acetone remover for up to 15 minutes. Acetone can cause serious eye irritation, drowsiness and dizziness; and chronic exposure to acetone-based nail removers may damage the central nervous system and renal system.

Assistant Prof. Hsi-Wu Wong of the Department of Chemical Engineering is partnering for a second year with Waters Corporation, an analytical laboratory instrument and software company located in Milford. The project team will continue identifying and testing the performance of safer solvents used in liquid chromatography equipment. The new formulations will replace the harmful solvents currently in use including methanol, acetonitrile and tetrahydrofuran.

Community Groups

Don’t Take That Receipt! of Haydenville, a public health and environmental justice group of youth and adults, will build upon a previously TURI-funded project that included the creation of an educational video about exposure to Bisphenol-A (BPA) and Bisphenol-S (BPS) from store receipts. View the video at www.bpa-free.me. This next phase of the project includes communicating the dangers of BPA and BPS through personal exchanges and social media. The team will reach out to stores in and around the low-income community of Holyoke and other towns in Western Mass., focusing on retailers, workers and consumers.

The Field Fund, Inc. of Martha’s Vineyard works to preserve and maintain Martha’s Vineyard’s grass playing fields using an organic, systems-based approach. The project team aims to share their success with other communities who are evaluating whether to invest in natural grass or plastic playing fields. The team will create a video, build a website and develop brochures and fact sheets that show that when thoughtfully maintained, natural grass is a durable, safe, economical playing surface that is also beneficial to children and the environment.

Lawrence Fire Department will integrate toxics use reduction awareness into their fire safety visits to all 103 auto body and car repair shops in the city. During the visits, the Fire Prevention team will conduct an initial safety assessment, provide owners with a list of safety concerns to work on and encourage owners to use safer products. Products that contain toxic chemicals include wheel washes, spray gun washers, brake cleaners, degreasers and lead wheel weights. During a later visit, fire prevention officials will evaluate whether the shops switched to safer alternatives. They will continue inspections on an annual basis, encouraging toxics use reduction and safer product trials.

Worcester Public Schools will work to make school buildings safer for students, teachers and tradesmen. The project team will identify safer alternatives that tradesmen use to maintain the buildings. Products that contain toxics include adhesive removers, caulking, lubricants, rust removers, boiler additives and more. The project team is also identifying safer products used to maintain the busses such as degreasers, lubricants, oils and coolants. They will share the information with facility managers and vocational teachers across the state.