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TURI seeks to help firms find chemical alternatives

By From the Lowell Sun

By Audrey M. Marks, Sun Statehouse Bureau

BOSTON -- A state organization is looking to help Massachusetts companies reduce their use of toxic chemicals with safer and cheaper alternatives.

The Toxic Use Reduction Institute at the University of Massachusetts Lowell made a presentation to new legislators yesterday about toxic chemical laws and the services the institute offers commonwealth businesses and nonprofits.

Under the Toxic Use Reduction Act, recently amended in July 2006, companies that exceed the threshold amount of a toxic chemical listed in the act are required to report the amount they use and the waste they produce.

Additionally, the law requires companies to create a Toxic Use Reduction Plan every other year. Companies report how and why the chemicals are used and evaluate possible chemical alternatives.

TURI offers companies who use toxic chemicals a free resource in searching for equipment and cleaning solutions that help remove harmful chemicals.

"There are hundreds of detergent-based cleansers and they are not universally effective," said Michael Ellenbeck, director for TURI. "It's like (with clothes) sometimes Tide works best on a stain and others need Ivory Snow detergent."

Ellenbeck said TURI can help both large and small businesses in finding alternatives to hazardous chemicals.

Nonprofits, cities and towns can apply for grants through the institute for toxic use reduction training and access the website for information about chemicals that are used in their community.

Though the institute has not spent money on studying health improvements in communities that participate TURI, Ellenbeck believes when toxic chemical use goes down health improves.

"I think personally there have been improvements in the communities' health, but we don't have hard data to support it," Ellenbeck said.

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