By Neal J. Riley
BOSTON -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recognized UMass Lowell faculty Wednesday for work to protect people and the environment from modern technology's potentially toxic side effects.
"We are a society that has developed a huge amount of new technologies and products, but we have not done a great job to try and sustain their safety and sustainability," said UMass Lowell professor Kenneth Geiser, who was given a lifetime achievement award for his work on chemical safety by the EPA during a Faneuil Hall ceremony.
"If we don't do that, we're going to put our kids at risk and our environment at risk."
Geiser was an author of the Massachusetts Toxic Use Reduction Act of 1989, which requires companies using certain toxic chemicals to implement pollution-prevention plans and report their results to the state. He has also pushed for chemicals policy reform in the United States and abroad. UMass-Lowell has recognized him as a "university professor," the highest award that can be bestowed on a faculty member.
"(Geiser) has been able to span all segments of society to have an indelible impact on the environment," said Nicholas Anastas, an EPA green chemist.
"Ken has changed the lives of countless people around the world."
Geiser said he was in his late 20s when he stumbled upon the subject of hazardous chemicals.
"I just made a commitment that I would really use my life to try and make a safer economy and a safer society," he said.
Also recognized at the ceremony was The New England Consortium, a UMass Lowell group that is one of 20 organizations around the country receiving funding to train workers in hazardous waste operations and emergency response.
"As we think about all these technologies and we think about how to make them without creating waste, we need a workforce that understands these issues," said Craig Slatin, principle investigator of the consortium and a university professor. "All this is happening through UMass-Lowell, where Chancellor (Marty) Meehan is shepherding environmental and worker health and safety protection by supporting these activities at the campus.
Since its founding in 1987, the consortium has trained more than 27,000 workers in 1,700 courses and has recently partnered with EPA New England to offer training to Native American tribes in the region.
"Helping those folks understand their health and safety rights and protections are critical to the well-being of our region for the future," said Paul Morse, project director of the consortium.