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TURI Awards $61,000 in Community Grants

Contacts: Karen Angelo, 978-430-6303 or [email protected]
                 Joy Onasch, 978-934-4343 or [email protected]

September 15, 2015, Lowell, Mass. – UMass Lowell’s Toxics Use Reduction Institute (TURI) recently awarded just over $61,000 to five Massachusetts community organizations. Project leaders will educate the public about ways to care for land without using pesticides, make homemade beauty care products and select safer toys, foam padding and sanitizers.

“These projects cover a variety of toxics such as flame retardants, pesticides, phthalates, bleach and more, illustrating the pervasiveness of toxics in our lives,” says Joy Onasch, community and small business program manager. “These organizations will raise awareness of the health effects of the toxics but more importantly make an impact by investigating and promoting safer substitutes to reduce toxic chemical use throughout Massachusetts.”

TURI awarded grants to the following organizations:

Bentley University, “Safe, Healthy, Affordable, Responsible Environments (SHARE) for Early Childhood Education,” $14,867

The project team aims to reduce exposure of children to phthalates and flame retardants, classes of chemicals known to disrupt hormones. The chemicals are typically found in plastic toys, sleeping mats, cushions and other products used in childcare centers. Assistant Professor Ryan Bouldin and his team will collaborate with several childcare facilities to learn what products they use and test the products for phthalates and flame retardants. They will investigate and pilot more environmentally preferable options. Data will be collected on product testing results, cost of product replacement and childcare providers’ awareness of environmental health and chemical exposure issues. The data will be aggregated into model case studies that will help all Massachusetts early childhood education facilities implement their own toxics use reduction plans.  

Greenfield Health Department, “Go Green Safer Sanitizers for Food Service,” $10,000

Health Inspector Bri Eichstaedt and the project team will reduce toxics use in food service by compiling information on certified green cleaning products, practices and benefits. The Health Department will hold public and private information sessions with food establishments to introduce alternative less toxic sanitizers and cleaners. They will also work with the TURI Lab to compare the effectiveness of greener sanitizers versus traditional sanitizers. This project is modeled on a previous TURI grant by the Franklin County Regional Council of Governments. 

Town of Natick, ”Pesticide Reduction in Residential and Municipal Land Management,” $10,000

Town of Natick’s Land Facilities and Natural Resources team will pilot organic land care practices on three municipal properties – the Bacon Free Library, Memorial Elementary School soccer field and the new John J. Lane Park. Starting this fall, these properties will undergo a complete technical review, in which microscopic soil nutrients, site conditions and playability factors are analyzed. Sustainability Coordinator Jillian Wilson-Martin and the project team will monitor the pilot properties for two years and will use the data to determine its ability to transition the additional 67 acres of school properties, playing fields and other land managed by the Town. Using the pilot sites as demonstrations of the success of organic lawn care, the project team will educate residents by hosting a garden tour and conducting a series of workshops on pesticide-free lawn care and other natural lawn care best practices.

Silent Spring Institute, Newton, “Reducing Reliance on Flame Retardants Used in Gymnastic Facilities,” $16,730

Research Fellow Courtney Carignan of the Harvard School of Public Health (partner on the grant) and the project team will investigate fire standards and flame retardant alternatives for the polyurethane foam cubes used in gymnastics facilities with the goal of reducing gymnast exposure to flame retardants. A recent study found that gymnasts can have high exposure to flame retardants as these chemicals are added to foam to meet fire safety standards. Flame retardants have been linked to thyroid disruption, memory and learning problems, advanced puberty, reduced fertility and cancer. Prototype testing will take place at Worcester Polytechnic Institute’s Fire Protection Engineering Laboratory. Results will be shared with gym owners, fire marshals, industry, gymnasts, coaches and parents.

YWCA of Lowell, “Girls Going Green- Naturally Beautiful,” $10,000

Building upon last year’s project, The Girls Going Green program at the YWCA of Lowell will offer workshops and events for teenagers about safer beauty and personal care products. Elisabeth Phillips-Jones, Program Facilitator for youth programs at the YWCA, and the project team will build a new team of core YWCA youth leaders that will offer trainings that emphasize beauty by creating homemade cosmetics, eating well, relaxation and exercise. The project team will reach out to other community partners in Lowell and regionally to share information about cosmetics and recipes for making safer products. 

About the Toxics Use Reduction Institute

The Toxics Use Reduction Institute (TURI) at the University of Massachusetts Lowell provides research, training, technical support, laboratory services and grant programs to reduce the use of toxic chemicals while enhancing the economic competitiveness of local businesses. For more information about the TURI Community Grant Program, visit TURI’s community web site. For more information about the Toxics Use Reduction Institute, visit www.turi.org.