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Your Environment. Your Health.

PEPH E-News April 2018

Volume 9, Issue 4: April 2018

PEPH E-News Header

Promoting Safe Gardening Practices for Community Gardeners

Just in time for spring, a new website from the Duke University Superfund Research Center (SRC) offers community gardeners resources about soil contamination and safe gardening. The website arose from a collaboration between the Duke SRC Community Engagement Core (CEC), the North Carolina Cooperative Extension, and gardening organizations across the state.

"Community gardens can be a source of healthy food, exercise, and social connections, but soil contaminants in some areas may present risks to the health of garden participants. We wanted to help gardeners make informed decisions about how to reduce their exposures to potential soil contaminants like lead, arsenic, PAHs, and pesticides," said Catherine Kastleman, program coordinator for the Duke SRC CEC and Research Translation Core (RTC).

Three graduate students tending to a community garden
Graduate students from Duke's Nicholas School of the Environment (from left) Reilly Henson, Sofia Tenorio Fenton, and Elissa Tikalsky helped to gather and analyze data for the pilot project.
(Photo courtesy of Bryan Luukinen)

To better understand soil contamination in North Carolina and its effects on community gardens and gardeners, the group conducted a pilot study designed by Elizabeth Shapiro-Garza, Ph.D., co-principal investigator and director of the CEC, with graduate students from Duke's Nicholas School of the Environment. They used a mix of surveys, interviews, focus groups, and site visits to gauge community gardeners' knowledge about soil contamination and to identify potential sources of contamination and exposure.

The research team visited six community gardens across the state to collect data about historic land use, human activity in the area surrounding each garden, and pesticide use. The gardens were selected in part using a mapping tool created by the RTC that compiles publicly available datasets about potential sources of contamination, such as brownfield sites, to screen for areas that may be at greater risk of having contaminated soils.

They found that runoff from surrounding roads and parking lots, as well as the location of gardens near buildings constructed before the ban on lead paint, were some of the most common potential sources of soil contamination.

The team also explored the barriers to, and motivations for, engaging in behaviors that could reduce exposure to contaminants, such as wearing gloves while gardening and getting garden soil tested for contaminants. They found that one of the primary barriers was a simple lack of awareness about soil contamination issues and sources. Other barriers were related to soil testing: gardeners either did not know where to get soil tested for contaminants or had trouble interpreting test results.

"Helping community members understand and manage the potential risks of growing food in an urban setting is the first step to making this creative and accessible form of gardening a truly healthy source of local food and fun," said Elissa Tikalsky.

The research team then created a website with educational and outreach materials, including fact sheets, graphics, video presentations, and information about soil testing services. They also are developing a Web app that gardeners can use to identify potential sources of contamination in or near their garden that will be available soon.

"There are a number of fairly easy, low-cost actions that gardeners can implement to reduce exposures if contaminants are detected, such as washing hands and produce before eating, building raised beds, and adding organic matter to garden soil," said Bryan Luukinen, senior program coordinator for the Duke SRC CEC and RTC.

In addition to the Duke SRC's Resources for North Carolina Community Gardeners website, interested readers also can listen to PEPH's Safe Urban Gardening podcast.

The CEC is now embarking on a five-year project to further encourage education, awareness, and safe gardening practices. In this next phase, they will work with approximately ten community gardens in North Carolina to sample and test soils. They then will select three to four of these gardens and work closely with the gardeners to create an action plan to reduce exposure and remediate contaminants.

PEPH Environmental Health Chat Podcast Series

PEPH Environmental Health Chat Podcast

In our latest podcast, Crumb Rubber in Playgrounds and Children's Health, learn what scientists are doing to understand the health risks of crumb rubber in playgrounds and what you can do to reduce children's exposure to potentially harmful contaminants.

You can find more podcasts on the Environmental Health Chat webpage or subscribe to the series on iTunes. We want your feedback! Send comments and ideas for future podcasts to

PEPH Grantee Highlight: Jennifer Horney, Ph.D.

Jennifer Horney, Ph.D., an associate professor and department head of epidemiology and biostatistics at Texas A&M University (TAMU), studies the health impacts of disasters such as hurricanes. Horney's research looks at linkages between disaster planning and household actions related to preparedness, response, and recovery. As the project leader of the TAMU Superfund Research Program Center's Community Engagement Core, she is working with impacted communities in Texas to study the health impacts of Hurricane Harvey. "Local knowledge from an engaged community has the power to improve models and predictions and to help neighborhoods anticipate future threats and prepare for and recover from adverse events," she said. Read the PEPH Grantee Highlight to learn more.

PEPH in the March NIEHS Environmental Factor

Berkeley - thirty years of innovative research in environmental health. At a January 30 event, the Superfund Research Program Center at Berkeley marked 30 years of making important scientific discoveries and launching new programs.

Hurricane recovery support in Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands. The Worker Training Program builds local expertise for safety training and fostering resilience in hurricane recovery workers.

Lichtveld discusses enterprise evaluation. At a February 13 NIEHS Keystone Science Lecture Seminar, Maureen Lichtveld, M.D., from Tulane University, presented an approach to evaluating complex environmental and public health efforts.

NIEHS-funded papers inform efforts to reduce mercury pollution. Four new papers describe the latest science on mercury in the environment and inform activities under a global treaty on mercury.

Help Silent Spring Institute Design Environmental Health Graphs Everyone Can Understand

Silent Spring Institute (SSI) requests your participation in an online experiment to test how well people read different types of graphs. Participants will be shown several graphs and asked to answer questions about each one. At the end, participants will indicate which graph they liked the most and will have the opportunity to suggest how the data could be presented to make it easier to understand. Results from the experiment will help SSI better understand how to visually communicate environmental health data.

Please share the online experiment with your colleagues and community networks! It takes only about 10 minutes to complete and will help SSI design graphs that are easy for everyone to understand.

Provide Your Input on the NIEHS 2018-2023 Draft Strategic Plan!

NIEHS invites the public to review and provide comments on the new draft Strategic Plan: Advancing Environmental Health Science, Improving Health 2.0. Your input is very important to lead NIEHS and the field of environmental health sciences over the next five years. The deadline for submitting comments is March 30, 2018. Read the NIEHS Environmental Factor article to learn more and visit the NIEHS Strategic Plan webpage to download the draft plan.

Share Your Ideas for Future Emerging Science for Environmental Health Decisions Workshops

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) wants to hear your ideas for future Emerging Science for Environmental Health Decisions (ESEHD) workshops. Sponsored by NIEHS, the Standing Committee on ESEHD is a forum that examines the potential to use new science, tools, and research methodologies to inform environmental health decisions. ESEHD workshops provide a venue for government agencies, industry representatives, environmental groups, and the academic community, among others, to explore promising scientific discoveries and advances that facilitate the identification, quantification, and control of environmental stressors on human health. ESEHD discussions focus on how the emerging science may be used by consumers, public health officials, policymakers, regulators, or others to make more informed decisions.

ESEHD welcomes workshop ideas that address the following:

  • New tools, technologies, or data that could address environmental health questions
  • Emerging discoveries or scientific advances that could transform how environmental health questions are addressed
  • Scientific disciplines or technologies that have not been widely applied or integrated into environmental health research

Recap of NC BREATHE 2018 Conference Now Available

On March 8, 2018, a group of diverse stakeholders gathered at the NC BREATHE conference to discuss the link between air quality and community health. A conference recap summarizing keynote presentations and breakout sessions is now available. PEPH program lead Liam O'Fallon attended the meeting and moderated a breakout session focused on engaging vulnerable communities. The conference was hosted by Clean Air Carolina and held at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

Upcoming PEPH-Related Events

April 7, 2018: Women's Health Awareness Day in Durham, North Carolina. Sponsored by the NIEHS Clinical Research Branch, Women's Health Awareness Day (WHAD) is a free community health conference for women of the Triangle area and surrounding counties. WHAD provides health awareness, education, information, resources, and on-site health screenings.

April 22, 2018: Music and Your Health: An Afternoon of Performances and Presentations in Durham, North Carolina. NIEHS invites you to attend this event, which will feature Nnenna Freelon - American jazz singer, composer, producer, arranger, and six-time Grammy nominee. Presentation topics will include the role of music in adult and children's health. The event is free of charge and open to the public. Adults and children are welcome!

April 29 - May 2, 2018: Save the date for the 3rd International Conference on One Medicine One Science (iCOMOS) in Minneapolis, Minnesota. iCOMOS will explore new ways to solve pressing health issues, facilitate interdisciplinary collaborations, and promote science's role in influencing public policy at the interface of humans, animals, and the environment. The conference will feature NIEHS Director Linda Birnbaum, Ph.D.

June 25 - 26, 2018: Tribal Environmental Health Summit in Corvallis, Oregon. The theme of the Summit is: "Sustaining Long Term Partnerships and Projects with Native American Communities." Abstracts are due May 31, 2018.

August 26 - 30, 2018: 2018 ISES-ISEE Joint Annual Meeting in Ottawa, Canada. The meeting theme is: "Addressing Complex Local and Global Issues in Environmental Exposure and Health."

November 10 - 14, 2018: American Public Health Association (APHA) Annual Meeting & Expo in San Diego, California. This year's theme is: "Creating the Healthiest Nation: Health Equity Now."

Funding Opportunities

Visit the Funding Opportunity Announcements (FOA) page for more PEPH-related funding opportunities.

EPA Environmental Education Grants. Supports environmental education projects that promote environmental awareness and stewardship and help provide people with the skills to take responsible actions to protect the environment. This program provides financial support for projects that design, demonstrate, and/or disseminate environmental education practices, methods, or techniques. Deadline: April 11, 2018.

Integrative Action for Resilience: Progress Through Community-Research Partnerships. This funding opportunity from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) focuses on helping communities prepare for, withstand, and recover from disasters, as well as understanding the combination of factors that lead to resilient communities. RWJF wants to bring together people who have not worked with each other in the past. The Foundation is not seeking joint proposals at this time. Instead, it is inviting two types of applicants: (1) Those who are working on the front lines to mitigate the effects of sudden or long-term stress on their community and (2) Researchers who have experience working within communities and who have mixed quantitative and qualitative research methodologies. Deadline: April 11, 2018, 3:00 p.m. EDT.

NIH Support for Conferences and Scientific Meetings (Parent R13). Supports investigator-initiated scientific meetings. NIEHS is interested in supporting meetings that will advance the field of environmental health sciences. Deadlines: April 12, 2018 (application); a letter requesting permission (LRP) to submit a conference application must be received via email no later than six weeks prior to the application due date. See the NIEHS Conference Grant webpage for information about the types of conferences and meetings the Institute is interested in supporting, as well as LRP guidelines.

Pollution Prevention Grant Program. EPA's Pollution Prevention (P2) Grant Program is accepting proposals to: (1) Provide technical assistance and/or training to businesses/facilities about source reduction techniques to help them adopt and implement source reduction approaches and to increase the development, adoption, and market penetration of greener products and sustainable manufacturing practices or (2) Identify, develop, document, and share P2 best management practices and innovations so this information may inform future technical assistance and so these P2 approaches and outcomes may be replicated by others. Deadline: April 26, 2018.

Addressing Health Disparities through Effective Interventions among Immigrant Populations (R01 Clinical Trial Optional). Supports innovative research to develop and implement effective interventions to address health disparities among U.S. immigrant populations. Deadline: June 5, 2018.

Research to Action: Assessing and Addressing Community Exposures to Environmental Contaminants (R01 Clinical Trial Optional). Encourages applications using community-engaged research methods to investigate the potential health risks of environmental exposures of concern to the community and to implement an environmental public health action plan based on research findings. Deadline: June 5, 2018. Check out the Research to Action Currently Funded Grantees webpage for a sense of the types of projects supported through this FOA.

Environmental Exposures and Health: Exploration of Non-Traditional Settings (R01 and R21 Clinical Trial Optional). Encourages interdisciplinary research aimed at promoting health, preventing and limiting symptoms and disease, and reducing health disparities across the lifespan for those living or spending time in non-traditional settings (i.e., playgrounds and nursing homes). Deadlines: June 5, 2018 (R01); June 16, 2018 (R21).

Interactive Digital Media STEM Resources for Pre-College and Informal Science Education Audiences (STTR) (R41/R42 Clinical Trial Not Allowed). Provides opportunities for eligible small business concerns to submit NIH Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) grant applications to develop interactive digital media science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) resources that address student career choice and health and medicine topics for: (1) pre-kindergarten to grade 12 students and pre- and in-service teachers or (2) informal science education (i.e., outside the classroom). Deadline: September 5, 2018.

Interactive Digital Media STEM Resources for Pre-College and Informal Science Education Audiences (SBIR) (R43/R44 Clinical Trial Not Allowed). Provides opportunities for eligible small business concerns to submit NIH Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant applications to develop interactive digital media science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) resources that address student career choice and health and medicine topics for: (1) pre-kindergarten to grade 12 students and pre- and in-service teachers or (2) informal science education (i.e., outside the classroom). Deadline: September 5, 2018.

Collaborative Minority Health and Health Disparities Research with Tribal Epidemiology Centers (R01 Clinical Trial Not Allowed). Supports collaborative research between Tribal Epidemiology Centers and extramural investigators on topics related to minority health and health disparities in American Indian / Alaska Native (AI/AN) populations. Deadline: December 4, 2018.

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