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Wayne State University

Superfund Research Program

Community Engagement Core

Project Leader: Thomas Lyke Thompson
Grant Number: P42ES030991
Funding Period: 2022-2027
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Project Summary (2022-2027)

Across Michigan, there is growing concern about very volatile, volatile, and semi-volatile organic compounds (henceforth collectively referred to as VOCs). These hazardous substances are carbon- based compounds that readily or less readily transition to the vapor or gas phase, including: trichloroethylene, tetrachloroethylene, benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylene. VOCs contaminate shallow soils and groundwater of post-industrial cities at Superfund, residential, commercial, and industrial properties, leading to exposures via vapor intrusion. The Center for Leadership in Environmental Awareness and Research (CLEAR) is dedicated to understanding and mitigating this serious environmental health problem. The Community Engagement Core (CEC) is CLEAR’s arm for community engagement and education. The CEC facilitates a community-centered process to protect human health and inform public policy. The CEC directs its efforts across Detroit—a city with a legacy of toxic waste in its industrial areas and neighborhoods, an older housing stock, and a poverty rate of 39.4 percent. These factors make Detroit residents vulnerable to VOC exposure through vapor intrusion into homes. The CEC engages community members in efforts to identify potential sources of VOC exposure, and prevent and reduce VOC exposure, with a focus on reducing infant-maternal health risks.

The CEC aims to:

  • Engage community leaders who are a part of the Community Advisory Board to leverage networks and enhance the effectiveness of the CEC.
  • Use multiple mechanisms for bidirectional community engagement in CLEAR by including residents in focus groups, community forums, surveys, and two-way text messaging communications.
  • Include Detroit residents as citizen scientists in assessing the risks of VOCs in their homes, help them to understand these hazards, address their concerns and engage them in specific activities to reduce VOCs in their homes.
  • Include residents in constructing a process for reporting the findings of home assessments and the development of an agenda for intervention and prevention in Detroit. The CEC advances knowledge of VOCs in the local community through research and outreach, including home assessments to measure VOCs in homes.

The CEC provides information about potential sources of VOCs and equip community members with knowledge of strategies to reduce the amount of VOC in homes. The CEC engages residents and leaders in bidirectional communication to assess the community’s priorities concerning environmental hazards. Further, the CEC mobilizes CLEAR researchers, community members and local organizations to address identified hazards.

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