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Greater Boston Area Safe Auto Shops Project

Project Details

Year: 2007
Location: Boston - Dorchester, Roxbury, Mattapan
Project Manager: Tiffany Skogstrom
Partners: Boston Inspectional Services Department, Nuestra Comunidad Development Corporation, University of Massachusetts Lowell Department of Work Environment, Bowdoin Street Health Center


Auto repair and auto body and paint shops use a range of toxic chemicals. The Safe Shops Project of the Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC) works to protect workers and surrounding communities by reducing toxic chemical use in auto shops in Dorchester, Roxbury and Mattapan. In 2007, with support from the TURI community grant program, the Boston Public Health Commission worked with selected auto repair shops to adopt safer alternatives to perchloroethylene (PCE)-based aerosol brake cleaners. They also worked with auto body and paint shops to replace toluene, xylene and acetone used to clean paint spray guns. The TURI Laboratory helped with performance testing. The UMass Lowell Department of Work Environment conducted air quality tests in the shops to track improvements over the course of the project.


As a result of their work, the BPHC developed a Safe Shop's Project Toxics Use Reduction Network Tool Kit. The materials from the Tool Kit are available for download from the sidebar.

The Safe Shops Project is an initiative of the Boston Public Health Commission to reduce the toxic exposures and health disparities experienced by the employees and neighbors of automotive repair and body shops located throughout Boston's neighborhoods. For over three years, the Safe Shops Project has partnered with auto shops, community groups, health centers, and City agencies to address health disparities in communities that are overburdened with toxic chemical exposure. The Safe Shops Project provides valuable resources at no cost, such as environmental and workplace safety trainings, health screenings, and financial and technical assistance.

In the 2006-2007 project year, through the help, partnership and support provided by the TURI grant, the Safe Shops Project was able to work closely and develop relationships with more shops by introducing safer alternatives to toxic chemicals.

Safe Shop staff worked with auto body shops to use an alternative spray gun cleaner recommended by the US EPA. This chemical, Acrastrip 400 made by US Polychemical Corp., is a less toxic alternative to lacquer thinner or mineral spirits, which contain hazardous chemicals such as toluene, acetone, and xylene. This replacement greatly improved the air quality in the shops.

Safe Shops also worked with auto repair shops to replace perchloroethylene-based brake cleaners with either an aqueous (water based) brake cleaning sink from Safety-Kleen or alternative aerosol spay cleaners recommended by the Toxics Use Reduction Institute (TURI). Perchloroethylene (aka PCE, tetrachloroethylene, or "perc") is a harmful chemical that can often be found in aerosol brake and part cleaners and has been linked to cancer in humans. The new aqueous cleaning systems are nonflammable and contain no solvents that can harm the environment and shop employees.

The toolkit developed describes the project steps and contains the educational tools and communications documents that helped make the Safe Shops Project a success in its work to replace toxic chemicals in auto shops. It is our hope that others will follow the steps below and adapt the materials to replicate the work of Safe Shops in communities across Massachusetts and the country as a whole.

Updates to this toolkit and new materials are constantly being made available on the Safe Shops Project web site.

This page updated Monday September 25 2017
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