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Workshops 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 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. Byproducts of chemicals used for home cooking, cleaning and personal hygiene are significant contributors to pollution in 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 Pollution Prevention Institute.

Using a different type of shampoo or home-cleaning product or getting away from Teflon-coated frying pans could significantly lower pollution going into the St. Lawrence River — if enough people took part, she said.

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

The free workshops will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. March 25, April 8 and April 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 people living in the homes where they are used.

The goal is to clean up portions of the Great Lakes identified as areas of concern by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The federal agency also identified local portions of the St. Lawrence River as areas of concern.

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

Although home products are a significant contributor, she said, the Pollution Prevention Institute hasn’t identified what percentage of pollution comes from home products compared with industrial waste.

“That’s the challenge — we don’t know exactly where some of these” pollutants come from, Ms. Winnebeck said.

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