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TURI Recognizes Organizations for Making Massachusetts a Safer Place to Live and Work.

June 2, 2011, Lowell, Mass. - State legislators joined UMass Lowell’s Toxics Use Reduction Institute (TURI) today to present the 2011 Champions of Toxics Use Reduction Awards that recognize outstanding leaders who have reduced toxic chemical use in Massachusetts through innovation and outreach.

At the recognition event, Michael Ellenbecker, professor of Work Environment at UMass Lowell and director of TURI, praised the honorees for finding innovative ways to reduce toxic chemical use and educating the public on how to make safer choices. “Every one we honor here today is a hero for protecting public health and the environment.”

Keynote speaker Senator Marc Pacheco, co-chair of the Joint Committee on the Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture, said that Massachusetts continues to lead the nation on environmental leadership and stewardship. “Our relationship between higher education, scientists and the business community is one we should be proud of,” he said.

TURI awarded the optical lens company Ophir Optics and dry cleaner Ace Cleaners – both located in North Andover – the “Industry Champion of Toxics Use Reduction” award. Ophir Optics reduced its use of volatile chemicals and generation of hazardous waste, and increased the energy efficiency of its manufacturing operations. In May, the company opened its doors to other companies to demonstrate its process for reducing toxics by embracing lean manufacturing processes.

Ace Cleaners 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.

Assistant Prof. Ramaswamy Nagarajan of Plastics Engineering at UMass Lowell received the “University Research Champion” award for researching and identifying safer alternatives to flame retardants that are found in many household items, including baby products. He is also researching alternatives to toxic surfactants found in cleaning products.

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

Representative Costello's Aide Honoring Kathy Litchfield or the New England Organic Farmers Association
  •  Boston Public Health Commission—“The Boston Safe Shops Project”—worked with auto body and repair shops to replace products that contain toxics such as toluene and perchloroethylene with a trial of non-toxic, water-based alternatives.
  •  Brazilian Women’s Group, Allston –“Awareness Through Media: Addressing Toxics Use Reduction in the Brazilian Community”—increased awareness among the Brazilian community of less toxic cleaners by conducting training and producing a radio talk show and an advertisement at was shown on Globo International Network.
  •  Frank Newhall Look Memorial Park, Florence –“Creating Safeground: Transitioning Look Park Grounds to a Petrochemical and Pesticide-free Land Care Management Strategy”— transitioned 35,000 square feet of lawn to organic management, conducted workshops, presented at public events and worked towards creating a town pesticide policy or bylaw.
  •  Groundwork Lawrence – “Healthy Living: Reducing the Use of Toxics”—educated 300 community members, including youths, on toxics found in household cleaners and personal care products as well as conducted workshops and distributed materials about safer products.
  •  Northeast Organic Farming Association, Barre — “Organic Lawn Care for Homeowners Workshop Series”—presented organic lawn care workshops in 10 towns and cities across the state to teach homeowners how to care for lawns without pesticides.

View photos from the event.