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LOWELL - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has awarded a grant to the Toxics Use Reduction Institute (TURI) at the University of Massachusetts Lowell to reduce toxic air releases that affect the health of children in the Merrimack Valley.
The TURI project is expected to reach about 400 residents of the Merrimack Valley directly, and thousands more through media and other outreach efforts. TURI will partner with Family Service, Inc., and the Merrimack Valley Environmental Coalition (MVEC) to increase public understanding of the link between toxics exposure and health risks to children in the area. TURI chose to focus on children in the region because various studies have shown that they are exposed to high levels of air toxics indoors and outdoors.
The $65,000 grant was announced by Congressman Marty Meehan (D-MA) whose district includes Lowell and Lawrence.
"This project will make a real difference in our community," Meehan said. "It targets a significant problem in the greater Lawrence region - air quality - and offers specific actions that will protect the health of area residents, particularly the health of children."
The grant will allow TURI and Family Service to train 40 public health outreach workers in the Merrimack Valley about the risks associated with toxic ingredients in common household products and the availability of safer alternatives. Those trained will in turn train 400 parents through office visits, home visits and in small group settings.
"With this EPA grant, we'll be able to fulfill overwhelming requests for training from community and social service agencies who realize that children's exposure to toxic chemicals is an important public health issue, as well as an environmental concern," said Michael Ellenbecker, TURI director.
EPA awarded the grant as part of a Greater Lawrence Area Initiative. The region is one of four nationwide to receive EPA funds under the agency's National Community Air Toxics Campaign, and is the only region to receive a grant in the Eastern United States.
"Protecting children, with young developing bodies, from harmful toxic substances is critically important to ensure they will lead healthy, active lives," said Robert W. Varney, regional administrator of EPA's New England regional office. "This grant will help develop a large team of trainers in the Merrimack Valley, who will in turn continue to teach people in their communities how to protect kids from exposure to toxic materials."