Department of Ecology News Release - October 28, 2015

Washington leaders honored for reducing toxics
Safer Chemistry Champion awards recognize innovation in preventing pollution and finding safer alternatives to toxic chemicals

SEATTLE – Innovations like salmon-skin wallets, safer padding for gymnasts, greener laboratories, and reusing hazardous chemicals received “Safer Chemistry Champion Awards” Tuesday from the Washington Department of Ecology.

The annual awards honor Washington businesses and organizations for their leadership in reducing the use of toxic chemicals and finding safer alternatives. Four organizations were recognized this year.

Rob Duff, Governor Jay Inslee’s senior environmental policy advisor, praised the winners’ creativity and dedication as he presented the awards during the Pacific Northwest Pollution Prevention Resource Center’s Regional Roundtable in Seattle.

"By finding safer ingredients, reducing chemical use and becoming more efficient, these organizations are models for their industries," Duff said. "They show that protecting people and the environment is smart business."

The winners

Seattle Gymnastics Academy – After learning about the potential health impacts from toxic flame retardant chemicals in the foam used to cushion aspiring gymnasts’ falls, Seattle Gymnastics Academy tested dust and its employees’ skin for these chemicals. The Academy then became the first gym in the United States to replace all of its loose foam with a flame retardant-free alternative.

Tidal Vision – Working with Washington shellfish processors, this company from Juneau, Alaska, developed an innovative method to extract chitin from crustacean shells, turning crab shells that had gone to waste into a valuable product used in wastewater filtration systems, sponges and textiles. Tidal Vision also worked with a tannery in Buckley to create a tanning process for salmon skin that uses only food-grade ingredients, allowing them to be made into wallets or leather sheets.

Genzyme - This Lynnwood-based pharmaceutical firm began an orphan chemical program last year to allow off-spec, expired or rejected chemicals to be used by other companies or research institutions, leading to a major cuts in its hazardous waste generation and disposal costs.

University of Washington, Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences – Staff with the department assessed their laboratory practices to evaluate their chemical use, energy consumption, and waste generation, and investigated the potential chemical hazards of several chemicals of concern. The department also developed a Green Labs webinar series to share what they learned.

Contact:

Andrew Wineke, communications, 360-407-6149, @ecologyWA