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Baylor College of Medicine

Superfund Research Program

Community Engagement Core

Project Leader: Sharon Croisant (University of Texas Medical Branch)
Co-Investigators: Cornelis J. Elferink (University of Texas Medical Branch), Lance Hallberg (University of Texas Medical Branch)
Grant Number: P42ES027725
Funding Period: 2020-2025
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Project Summary (2020-2025)

Houston is the fourth-largest city in the United States, and its port is one of the busiest in the world. Lack of zoning for industry and ignorance of the long-term effects of "legacy" pollutants have contributed to severe environmental health issues in the region, with more than a dozen federal Superfund sites located in the metroplex. The Ship Channel includes two major Superfund sites, with many more highly toxic sites managed by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. The focus of the Baylor College of Medicine (BCM) - Rice University SRP on polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and their effects on preterm birth and susceptibility to chronic respiratory and neurodegenerative diseases addresses a largely heretofore unmet need for identifying at-risk populations and developing new and innovative technologies for identifying and ameliorating risk from PAHs. The overall goal of the Community Engagement Core (CEC) is to facilitate meaningful bidirectional communication and interactions among the BCM-Rice SRP’s internal and external stakeholders. The mission is to develop and adapt best practices to work with residents and local leaders of affected communities to facilitate prevention and intervention strategies that result in community-level reductions in exposure to PAHs and other Superfund site pollutants. The CEC is working with communities surrounding the Ship Channel and Superfund sites, many of which are environmental justice communities impacted by heavy industrialization, poverty, and the environmental health effects of sites including the San Jacinto River Waste Pits and Patrick Bayou. Community partners play an invaluable role in reaching targeted communities. The Texas Health and Environment Alliance, Inc., spearheaded by Executive Director Jackie Young, represents all neighborhoods impacted by the San Jacinto River Waste Pits. Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services is a broad-based, internationally recognized non-profit group headed by Juan Parras, who for 25 years has been dedicated to advocacy, education, and providing resources to Houston neighborhoods disproportionately impacted by pollution, poverty, and neglect. The CEC’s Specific Aims are to:

  1. Use new and existing multi-directional communication strategies to increase investigator and community capacity for collaborating to reduce exposures to PAHs and other Superfund contaminants.
  2. Assist and support BCM-Rice SRP project and core community-engagement activities through community forums, a robust Stakeholder Advisory Board, and Community Science Workshops.
  3. Support community projects to reduce exposures to Superfund PAHs. This includes educational interventions for pregnant women, well water screening and soil testing, community gardening activities and instruction to prevent exposure to harmful chemicals, and fish consumption education programs.
  4. Rigorously evaluate engagement activities, processes, and outcomes and disseminate best practices at the regional and national level.
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