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Harvard School of Public Health

Superfund Research Program

Community Engagement Core

Project Leader: Tamarra James-Todd
Co-Investigators: Gary Adamkiewicz, Katherine A. James (University of Colorado Denver)
Grant Number: P42ES030990
Funding Period: 2020-2025
View this project in the NIH Research Portfolio Online Reporting Tools (RePORT)

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Project Summary (2020-2025)

Communities that are exposed to metals often have limited resources, partnerships, and scientific knowledge that will aid in mitigating the impact of these metals on later-life health risks. Such limitations challenge the ability to prioritize and mitigate community-relevant exposure pathways and possible health risks. An approach based on bidirectional communication and problem solving, citizen science, and provision of practical mitigation systems through a co-implemented intervention could provide lasting value to affected communities. The Community Engagement Core (CEC) serves a critical role in the Metals and Metal Mixtures: Cognitive Aging, Remediation, and Exposure Sources (MEMCARE) Superfund Research Center (SRC) by developing a partnership between local residents and stakeholders in rural and urban communities with SRC team members and trainees to understand community needs and enhance broad understanding of metals and metals mixtures, identify exposure pathways and mitigation approaches, and promote education and public policy to characterize risk and empower community members as advocates of their own health around metals exposures. The CEC’s rural community partnership is based in the San Luis Valley of Colorado, which is affected by the Nelson Tunnel / Commodore Waste Pile and Summitville Mine Superfund sites. In both areas, groundwater and soil are contaminated with a variety of metals, including arsenic, cadmium, manganese, lead, and chromium. CEC’s urban community partnership is based at the Dimock Center in the Roxbury neighborhood of Boston. The Dimock Center provides care for individuals living in the surrounding community, which is challenged with household metal exposures, a high burden of environmental metal exposures, and high poverty rates. The CEC is:

  1. Identifying concerns of pregnant women regarding exposures to toxic metals in their community and the impact on offspring health;
  2. Leading a citizen science effort to collaboratively collect and assess individual metal and metal mixture levels from drinking water and soil samples, as well as urine and toenails of pregnant women and children from urban and rural communities; and
  3. Co-implementing a remediation intervention using commercially available water filters and innovative new MEMCARE SRC-developed technologies to reduce community metal exposures, with effectiveness tested by participating community members.

The CEC is using methods and technologies to detect hazardous substances in the environment as part of a community-based approach to assess and mitigate the risks of these substances to human health. The CEC is one of the most fundamentally integrated components of the MEMCARE SRC as it partners closely in the research of all four projects and establishes lasting and productive partnerships with the community, including routine evaluation of these partnerships to ensure bidirectional exchange to provide the community with key information about metal exposures and options for remediation. In addition, the CEC provides an opportunity for MEMCARE SRC researchers to develop novel solutions that are driven by community concerns surrounding metal exposures on maternal and child health.

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