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Organizations and Researcher Receive Champion of Toxics Use Reduction Awards

June 13, 2012, Boston, Mass.—State legislators will join UMass Lowell’s Toxics Use Reduction Institute (TURI) today to present the 2012 Champions of Toxics Use Reduction Awards at a ceremony at the Massachusetts State House, Great Hall, 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

The awards recognize outstanding leaders who have reduced toxic chemical use in Massachusetts through innovation and outreach.  

“Every one we honor here today is a hero for protecting public health and the environment,” said Michael Ellenbecker, professor of Work Environment at UMass Lowell and director of TURI. “You’ve worked hard to find innovative ways to reduce toxic chemical use and educate the public on how to make safer choices.”

TURI awarded Independent Plating of Worcester the “Industry Champion of Toxics Use Reduction” award. The company identified a way to change its nickel-plating process to eliminate the use of hexavalent chromium, a known human carcinogen that is designated as a Higher Hazard Substance under the Massachusetts Toxics Use Reduction Act. The company will conduct on-site demonstrations of the new technology in the fall to encourage other metal finishing companies to move away from the use of this toxic substance.

King and Queen Cleaners of Milford was awarded the “Small Business Champion of Toxics Use Reduction” award. The company converted its dry cleaning shop to dedicated wet cleaning technology with the help of a TURI grant to eliminate the use of perchloroethylene (perc), a probable human carcinogen. This spring, the owner demonstrated the technology to more than 30 dry cleaners in Massachusetts to encourage them to switch to the water-based system. 

Associate Professor Dan Schmidt of UMass Lowell, and Tewksbury resident, was awarded the “University Research Champion” award for conducting a number of innovative projects with seed funding from TURI. His past projects have included research on nanoclays and vegetable oil-based additives to create phthalate-free PVC. More recently, he has worked to develop BPA-free epoxies and safer and flexible adhesives for industrial applications.

Five community groups were recognized as “Community Champions of Toxics Use Reduction” for educating the public about safer ways to clean and care for lawns. They include:

Brazilian Women’s Group (BWG), Allston – “Wiping out Toxics Use in Housecleaning” project

The Brazilian Women’s Group partnered with the Brazilian community media to communicate the health effects associated with prolonged exposure to toxic cleaning products, and to demonstrate the viability of safer alternatives. The project team conducted training sessions in Portuguese and English that demonstrated how to mix cleaning solutions using safer ingredients. The training was conducted across the state, from Springfield to Cape Cod. TV and radio broadcasts promoted the use of safer cleaning products, reaching thousands of Brazilians who work in the cleaning industry.

Montachusett Opportunity Council (MOC), Inc, Fitchburg–“Green and Clean in North Central Mass” project

Serving 30 cities and towns, the Montachusett Opportunity Council (MOC) conducted training sessions with seniors and parents of young children about toxins in traditional household cleaning products and the availability of safer, less expensive alternatives. The project team held workshops, educated Head Start families and day-care providers and distributed free samples of the safer products for trial. They also hosted a Green and Clean symposium for regional municipalities, housing authorities, schools and janitorial companies. 

Norfolk County 7 Public Health Coalition– “Greening Nail Salons for Employees and Communities” project

Norfolk County 7 promoted safe nail product use and behaviors to reduce toxic chemical exposure in nail salons. The project team hosted a regional conference to educate nail shop owners and workers about the health effects of toxics such as acetone, formaldehyde, toluene, dibutyl phthalate and more. They delivered free samples of less toxic alternatives during site visits to encourage owners to try, and then switch to, the safer products. They also hosted a public event in Dedham that included speakers, exhibits and safer products for trial. The public health departments in the Norfolk County 7 area that participated in this project included Canton, Dedham, Milton, Needham, Norwood and Westwood.

Pioneer Valley Planning Commission, Springfield –“Creating Safeground: Transitioning Western Mass. Parks to an Organic Land Care Management Plan” project

The project team transitioned designated areas in five municipal parks in Hampshire and Hampden counties from using synthetic fertilizers and pesticides to organic practices and materials. These parks – School Street Park in Agawam, Look Park in Northampton, Greenwood Park in Longmeadow, Town Center Park in Ludlow and Wistariahurst Museum grounds in Holyoke – attract hundreds of thousands of visitors every year which made it the perfect opportunity to demonstrate the benefits and beauty of organic lawn care. The ultimate goal of the project is to spur statewide adoption of practices that reduce or eliminate synthetic fertilizer and pesticide use on all public grounds throughout Massachusetts.