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2017 Champions of Toxics Use Reduction Recognized at State House

Contact: Karen Angelo, 978-430-6303

June 20, 2017, Boston, Mass. – State legislators joined the Toxics Use Reduction Act (TURA) program today to recognize 2017 Champions of Toxics Use Reduction at the Massachusetts State House. The annual event recognizes outstanding leaders who are making the Commonwealth a safer place to live and work.

The 2017 Champions of Toxics Use Reduction are:

Industry Champion

Mark Richey Woodworking, Newburyport, a high-end architectural woodworking company, consistently works with the Office of Technical Assistance to reduce the use of toxic chemicals and conserve energy. With investments in alternative energy and renewable energy systems including a biomass furnace, wind turbine and solar arrays, the company expects to produce 100 percent of the energy it needs to operate. The company also uses water-based paints, solvent recycling and aqueous spray gun cleaning. These improvements have reduced the annual use of solvents by 1,300 pounds and emissions of VOCs and acetone by 12 tons.

Worker Safety Champion

Steve Gauthier, General Electric Company, Lynn, IUE/CWA Local 201, has been a strong advocate of worker health and safety in the Commonwealth for many years. Workers, who typically bear the largest burden from the use of toxic chemicals, have improved work environments due to Steve’s determination and leadership. By bringing the perspectives and concerns of workers to the TURA Program, Steve has elevated priorities such as chemical sensitizers and asthmagens. He has shared his knowledge and expertise by participating in the TURI community grant projects, training workers in toxics use reduction and serving for 10 years as a member of the TURA Advisory Committee. Through this work, as well as his involvement with MassCOSH, the North Shore Labor Council and the OSHA Voluntary Protection Program, he has been a critical voice for workers.

Academic Research Champion

Zarif Farhana Mohd Aris, a 2017 graduate of the Ph.D. Plastics Engineering program at UMass Lowell, is a passionate champion of green chemistry, toxics use reduction and sustainability. Under the direction of Professor Ramaswamy Nagarajan, she has worked on TURI-funded research projects with companies such as Alpha Chemical and Siemens Healthineers to find safer surfactants for use in cleaning formulations and medical devices. More than the research itself, she has shared her knowledge and excitement of green chemistry by mentoring high school students, volunteering at sustainability camps and hosting Boy Scout troops in the lab. She has won many awards during her four years at UMass Lowell including the Chancellor’s Medal in Community Service.  

Small Business Champions

Gymnastics and More, Woburn partnered with the Silent Spring Institute to replace foam pit cubes with ones that do not contain flame retardants.

Minuteman Press, Foxboro replaced a lithographic off-set press that uses solvent cleaners with a digital envelope press. Installation of the digital press allows the shop to operate free of solvents which protects worker health and safety.

Municipal and Community Champions

Friends of Topsfield Trails. Working with the Friends of Topsfield Trails, Eagle Scout Thomas LeBel of Topsfield built and installed bat houses on the Topsfield section of the Rail Trail. By attracting and providing habitat for mosquito-eating bats, the bat houses have the potential to decrease the use of pesticides.

Groundwork Lawrence educated Lawrence residents on how to reduce the use of toxics commonly found in household cleaners. The project team conducted workshops about toxics found in common household cleaners and how to make safer cleaning products. Working with bodegas in the community, the team shared home recipes for safer cleaning products, hosted demonstrations and created pamphlets and a video for local access TV and family health centers.

Hitchcock Center for the Environment, Amherst, provided educational programs on safer alternatives to toxic chemicals used in building construction. The Center offered tours of its model building that was designed with responsibly sourced safer materials, net zero energy and net zero water. Drawing on a number of local and national experts, the team produced education programs for design professionals, contractors, business owners and the public.

Silent Spring Institute, Newton, worked with Gymnastics and More in Woburn to replace flame retardant foam pit cubes with non-flame retardant foam. Flame retardants, which migrate out of the cubes and enter the body, can harm the developing brain and has been linked to cancer and reproductive health issues. The project team studied the flammability of foam pit cubes and gymnasts’ exposure to flame retardants. Final findings, including fire safety results, were communicated to fire chiefs and gyms across the Commonwealth.

Square One, Springfield. The early learning and family support services agency trained staff and parents on how to decrease the use of toxic cleaning and pest control materials in homes and at Square One facilities. The project team visited homes in Springfield to provide education on asthma triggers and referrals to community resources.

Transformative Culture Project (formerly Press Pass TV), Haydenville, created an educational video on how to reduce exposure to bisphenol-A (BPA), a hormone disrupting chemical that is used to coat thermal paper store receipts, among other uses. Transformative Culture Project, which uses media arts to provide meaningful employment and education for youth living in low-income neighborhoods, distributed the video via social media.

National Pollution Prevention Roundtable Most Valuable Student of the Year Awards

Alicia McCarthy, MS, Occupational Health, UMass Lowell. As an undergraduate and graduate student, Alicia worked in the TURI lab to identify and test safer alternatives to hazardous cleaning solvents and paint stripping solutions. She has demonstrated her leadership skills by managing the testing team that evaluated the performance of safer solvents to replace TCE and PCE. She has shared her knowledge on both the academic front and in the community. She volunteered at Lowell General Hospital to share with expectant mothers how to protect their babies from toxics. She presented the paint stripping project results at a conference and worked in Brussels updating the European Trade Union Priority List for REACH authorization to give workers better information on uses of substances of very high concern.

Abigail Giarrosso, BS, Chemistry, UMass Lowell. tested and evaluated safer alternatives to methylene chloride used in paint stripping products. In the TURI lab, she created test coupons and different solvent blends, conducted performance tests and analyzed and documented the results. She also developed a training manual for using Hansen Solubility Parameters in Practice, software that helps researchers identify safer solvent solutions. Due to her work, faculty, students, industry users and environmental, health and safety consultants will be able to more easily use the software to find safer solutions. 

About the Toxics Use Reduction Act (TURA) Program

The Massachusetts Toxics Use Reduction Act (TURA) of 1989 is designed to protect public health and the environment while enhancing the competitiveness of Massachusetts businesses. Under TURA, companies that use large amounts of toxic chemicals are required to report chemical use and conduct toxics use reduction planning every two years. Companies benefit from the joint efforts of three agencies – the Toxics Use Reduction Institute, the Office of Technical Assistance and Technology and Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection – that provide training, grant funding, free confidential technical assistance, research and regulatory guidance. Visit www.turi.org.

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