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Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Superfund Research Program

Community Engagement Core

Project Leader: Kathleen M. Vandiver
Grant Number: P42ES027707
Funding Period: 2022-2027
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Project Summary (2022-2027)

N-Nitrosamines are a family of chemicals that include some of the most potent mutagens known. N-nitrosamines are a major concern for people who live near the Olin Chemical Superfund Site because there is a plume of N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA) contamination of water and soil that stretches nearly a mile underground, contaminating municipal and private wells. NDMA is also a concern of the Passamaquoddy Tribe because the methods used for water treatment are known to lead to formation of NDMA. Over many years, the MIT team has created strong relationships based on trust and mutually shared goals, and these relationships are the basis for ongoing and proposed work. Via bi-directional communication and collaboration with stakeholders, the Community Engagement Core (CEC) plays a vital role in accomplishing its mission of educating youth in environmental health sciences, inspiring research careers and social responsibility for the next generation of scientists and reducing the amount of N-nitrosamines in drinking water.

Aim 1 is to teach. Working with the biomedical research projects, Assessment of the Health Effects of N-Nitrosamines and Development of Disease Mitigation Strategies and High Resolution Mutation Spectra and Multi-Omics for Deducing Etiology and Predicting Disease, the CEC creates innovative, hands-on learning experiences that teach key concepts of biology and environmental health sciences. Working with the tribal educators (Culture Keepers), the MIT team is co-creating and distributing hands-on experiential learning kits to teach key concepts of biology and environmental health to tribal youth. The CEC will also work with high school teachers in Wilmington to optimize hands-on teaching experiences for Wilmington high school teachers to share knowledge related to the research focus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Superfund Research Program (SRP)’s biomedical research projects. Using tactile teaching kits, the MIT SRP is addressing the pipeline problem by co-creating and offering teaching experiences to underrepresented minority (URM) individuals to inspire careers in environmental health.

Aim 2 is to intervene and prevent disease by working with all projects to empower stakeholders to reduce the levels and toxicity of hazardous substances. The CEC partners with community stakeholders to better communicate with organizations that can help to provide cleaner water, including the Environmental Protection Agency. In addition, to reduce the levels of toxicants, the CEC (with support from the environmental science and engineering [ESE] projects, Methods for Selective Extraction, Concentration, and Detection of N-Nitrosamines and Measurement and Engineering Solutions to Detect and Prevent N-Nitrosamine Exposure), is teaming up with a nonprofit organization that teaches tomorrow’s leaders in industrial chemistry to adopt strategies that reduce and prevent environmental contamination.

Aim 3 is to support the use technology that is being developed by ESE projects to perform citizen science and provide filtration devices to the community. Data on the identity and the levels of N-nitrosamines is being collected by the CEC in collaboration with community members via a Citizen Science project. Data on the levels of N-nitrosamines is integrated with data from the other projects and cores to contribute to risk evaluation. The CEC is also helping to deploy a novel filtration device that destroys N-nitrosamines. By empowering people with knowledge of what is in their water and by offering filtration devices, the CEC will reduce the amount and toxicity of hazardous chemicals in drinking water.

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