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Workshops in Massena aim to reduce pollution from home products

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MASSENA - Steps as small as changing the cleaning and cooking products you use at home may be able to reduce the amount of pollutants in our rivers and lakes.

Reducing one’s impact on the environment will be the topic of a series of workshops sponsored by the New York State Pollution Prevention Institute.

By-products of chemicals used for home cooking, cleaning and personal hygiene are a significant contributor to pollution to Great Lakes waterways such as the St. Lawrence River, according to Kate H. Winnebeck, senior environment health and safety specialist at the Rochester Institute of Technology.

RIT hosts the state’s pollution prevention institute.

Changes as small as using a different type of shampoo or home-cleaning product or getting away from using a Teflon-coated frying pan could significantly lower pollution to the St. Lawrence River - if enough people took part, she said.

“There’s a lot of small things you can at home to reduce pollution. It’s not meant to be expensive,” Ms. Winnebeck said.

The free workshops will be held from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. March 18 and 25, and April 8 and 15 at the Massena Community Center, 61 Beech St. Each workshop is free, and refreshments will be provided. The first workshop will address cleaning products and how they might affect the health of persons living in the homes where they are used.

Similar workshops were held in Rochester and Syracuse, and one is scheduled to take place in Buffalo. The goal to clean up portions of the Great Lakes identified as areas of concern by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The federal agency identified local portions of the St. Lawrence River as an area of concern.

A Massena native, Ms. Winnebeck hopes enough people take part in the workshops to turn around decades of pollution that resulted in the state Department of Health’s warning to not eat fish out of the Grasse River. The warning, issued in the 1980s, was aimed to prevent residents from consuming carcinogenic PCBs present in the bodies of Grasse River fish.

“The ultimate goal for everyone is to get rid of areas of concern so there will be no ban on eating the fish (and no) declining native species,” Ms. Winnebeck said.

Although she believes home products are a significant contributor to pollution, Ms. Winnebeck said the pollution prevention institute hasn’t yet identified what percentage of pollution comes from home products compared to industrial waste. “That’s the challenge - we don’t know exactly where some of these (pollutants) come from,” Ms. Winnebeck said.

Local government officials welcomed the workshops as a way to increase consumer awareness of potentially harmful chemicals in some of the products that they use.

“Obviously if we can keep harmful chemicals out of the environment that would be beneficial,” Supervisor Joseph D. Gray said. “If the workshop can get more action from people, that would be encouraging.”

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