Youth Visualize Water Quality Data on the Chelsea Creek
Researchers and a group of high school students used an innovative approach called data physicalization to raise awareness of environmental health issues in Chelsea, Massachusetts.
The team used glowing lanterns as physical representations of environmental data and floated them onto Chelsea Creek to symbolize years of water quality violations committed by local oil storage facilities. A short video chronicles the “Chemicals in the Creek” project.
"We wanted to physically display environmental data in a way that would make local water quality issues more visual and tangible to communities along Chelsea Creek,” said Laura Perovich, a Ph.D. candidate from the MIT Media Lab. “As researchers, we are used to using numbers to represent environmental data, which can remove us from the physicality of both the environment and contamination events. Our approach helps people explore environmental data in the actual location where the violations occurred through physical representation of chemicals that are otherwise invisible.”
Storage facilities along Chelsea Creek contain jet fuel used at Boston’s Logan International Airport, nearly 80% of heating fuel used in New England, and road salt for more than 350 communities around the region. After Chelsea’s environmental justice organization GreenRoots expressed interest in analyzing the combined impacts of the oil storage facilities on the Creek’s water quality, Sara Wylie, Ph.D., from Northeastern University, Perovich, and the GreenRoots youth-led Environmental Chelsea Organizers (ECO) crew teamed up to help the community visualize this burden.
The ECO crew of six youth work to achieve environmental justice, civic engagement, and youth empowerment in Chelsea. Their many opportunities with the “Chemicals in the Creek” project make them feel empowered.
The crew wants to continue to be involved in environmental justice projects and create opportunities for other youth from their community to learn about environmental and social issues in their city. They believe knowing and comprehending environmental data can be a catalyst for change because it empowers community members to take a step toward bettering their physical and mental health.
Funded by a pilot project grant awarded to Wylie from the Center for Research on Environmental and Social Stressors in Housing Across the Life Course, the team used the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Enforcement and Compliance History Online database to compile data on 76 Clean Water Act violations committed between 2013 and 2017 by seven local oil-storage facilities. These violations resulted in the release of harmful chemicals, such as benzene and toluene, into Chelsea Creek.
To display these discharges, they created a floating lanterns exhibition, each lantern marked with the logo of a polluting facility and colored according to a specific chemical. To represent violations over time, they staggered release of the lanterns by year.
The data physicalization event was followed by a community meeting to discuss the environmental justice concerns brought to light by the lantern installation.
“By reminding communities, companies, and regulators that these are physical events with lived consequences, these lanterns create a space to reflect collectively on contamination, with the hope that we can work together to enforce and improve environmental protections that also promote human health,” said Wylie. In Chelsea, the project resulted in a series of follow-up meetings with local oil-storage companies.
“We hope that other communities will hold Open Water Data projects to bring people together and affirm the public's right to know about contaminants and potentially limit industrial health hazards,” said Wylie. “Imagine lantern events being held across American watersheds to draw attention to this systemic problem.”
EPA’s CyAN App Informs Decision Making Related to Algal Blooms
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Cyanobacteria Assessment Network mobile application (CyAN app) is an easy-to-use and customizable app that provides access to algal bloom satellite data for over 2,000 of the nation’s largest lakes and reservoirs. Certain types of algal blooms can produce toxins that can harm human and pet health, the environment, and local economies. EPA scientists developed the CyAN app to help local and state water quality managers make faster and better-informed decisions regarding recreational and drinking water safety related to algal blooms.
PEHSU Webinars Offer Health Care Professionals Continuing Education Opportunities
The Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Units (PEHSU) program hosts a webinar series providing on-demand educational material and an opportunity to earn continuing medical education credits. PEHSU’s Grand Rounds webinars focus on current and emerging aspects of pediatric and reproductive environmental health. Grand Rounds speakers include physicians and Ph.D. subject matter experts, as well as individuals with expertise in areas such as home assessment, laboratory analysis, and risk communication.
The June 2019 Grand Rounds webinar focused on how air pollution affects child brain development and featured NIEHS grantee Irva Hertz-Picciotto, Ph.D. Health care professionals can earn continuing education credits through July 2021 for completing this course.
The August 2019 Grand Rounds webinar will focus on herbal products and related toxicity. Susan Smolinske, Pharm.D., will discuss the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act, contamination and quality issues with herbal supplements, herbs that may cause Type I allergic reactions, liver toxicity from pennyroyal and kava kava, toxicity from alpha lipoic acid, and several toxicological problems that may occur with Ginkgo biloba. The webinar will be held August 21, 2019 at 1:00 p.m. (ET).
Call for Papers for a Themed Issue on Clinical and Translational Science to Improve Rural Health
The Journal of Clinical and Translational Science calls for papers for a themed issue on “Clinical and Translational Science to Improve Rural Health.” The journal seeks articles about turning observations in the laboratory, clinic, and community into interventions that improve the health of people – from diagnostics and therapeutics to medical procedures and behavioral changes. The manuscript deadline is October 31, 2019. See the call for papers for more information.
Job Opportunity: Chair of the Department of Environmental Health Sciences, University of Alabama at Birmingham
The School of Public Health (SOPH) at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) is searching for a Chair for its Department of Environmental Health Sciences (EHS); the chair will lead the department in establishing a new focus on the human health impacts of climate change. The Department of EHS is one of five in the SOPH, where there is significant opportunity to collaborate with colleagues in other departments who focus on climate change-related topics, such as the economics of climate change, environmental epidemiology, and health behavior adaptations to climate change. Current research expertise in the department includes exposure science and air pollution, urban heat islands and sustainability, and occupational health.
The successful candidate will demonstrate a record of academic accomplishments, scholarly recognition, external research support, and leadership responsibilities to warrant appointment at the level of tenured or tenure-earning professor. A Ph.D., M.D., Sc.D., or equivalent doctoral degree with a background in environmental health sciences is required to apply for the position. See the job posting for more information and to apply.
In our latest podcast, Understanding the Global Burden of Disease, learn how the Global Burden of Disease study could help clarify the true burden of environmental exposures and help inform health organizations and decision makers as they prioritize environmental factors to address. This is part one of a two-part series. Stay tuned for part two, coming in August!
PEPH Grantee Highlight
Meredith McCormack, M.D.
Meredith McCormack, M.D., studies how environmental factors can affect respiratory health in low-income urban and rural populations. As a project leader at the Center for Childhood Asthma in the Urban Environment at Johns Hopkins University, McCormack examines the link between air pollution, allergens, and asthma among low-income minority children living in Baltimore. McCormack is also involved in an educational program to help Baltimore students understand how air pollution affects lung health.
“This program has been a great way to empower young people to be ambassadors of lung health in their communities by sharing what they know with other students, their families, and community,” she said.
Supports investigator-initiated scientific meetings. NIEHS is interested in supporting meetings that will advance the field of environmental health sciences. See NIH Support for Conferences and Scientific Meetings for information about the types of conferences and meetings the institute is interested in supporting, as well as LRP guidelines.
Deadline: August 12, 2019
Letter Requesting Permission (LRP): Required, due 6 weeks prior to the application receipt date.
The overarching goal of this R25 program is to support educational activities that encourage individuals from diverse backgrounds, including those from groups underrepresented in the biomedical and behavioral sciences, to pursue further studies or careers in research. This FOA will support creative educational activities with a primary focus on research experiences.
Deadline: August 30, 2019
Letter of Intent: July 30, 2019
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has just released the 2019 Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Omnibus Grant Solicitations, which permit researcher-initiated topics around health, medicine, and life science to be submitted for funding consideration.
Deadline: September 5, 2019
Supports innovative research to develop and implement effective interventions to address health disparities among U.S. immigrant populations.
Deadline: October 5, 2019
Supports innovative research to understand uniquely associated factors (biological, behavioral, sociocultural, and environmental) that contribute to health disparities or health advantages among U.S. immigrant populations.
Deadline: October 5, 2019
(R01 Clinical Trial Optional; R21 Clinical Trial Optional; R03 Clinical Trial Not Allowed). Supports innovative approaches to identifying, understanding, and developing strategies for overcoming barriers to the adoption, adaptation, integration, scale-up, and sustainability of evidence-based interventions, tools, policies, and guidelines. Conversely, there is a benefit in understanding circumstances that create a need to stop or reduce (“de-implement”) the use of interventions that are ineffective, unproven, low-value, or harmful. In addition, studies to advance dissemination and implementation research methods and measures are encouraged.
Deadlines: October 5, 2019 (R01); October 16 (R03 and R21)
Letter of Intent: Due 30 days prior to the application due date.
Supports research that examines how health information technology adoption impacts minority health and health disparity populations in access to care, quality of care, patient engagement, and health outcomes.
Deadline: October 28, 2019
Supports research to advance our understanding of the impact of extreme weather and disaster events in aging human populations. Together with the companion FOA (PAR- 19-249) that focuses on underlying mechanisms of aging utilizing animal models, these two FOAs will help to explicate the behavioral, biological, and socioecological processes that occur during extreme weather or disaster events that affect aging processes. Through the integration of the population studies and the companion mechanistic studies FOA, the ultimate goal is to improve the health and well-being of older adults via increased knowledge about extreme weather and disaster preparedness, response, and recovery.
Deadline: November 4, 2019
Letter of Intent: Due 30 days prior to the application due date.
The National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD), in partnership with NIEHS, intends to publish a Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) to solicit applications from eligible institutions of higher education for specialized research center grants to conduct multidisciplinary research, research capacity building, and community-engaged research activities focused on understanding and reducing or eliminating environmentally driven health disparities. The estimated publication date of the FOA is August 01, 2019.
Deadline: November 15, 2019 (estimated)
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, 2019
Supports environmental health research in which an unpredictable event provides a limited window of opportunity to collect human biological samples or environmental exposure data. The program aims to understand the consequences of natural and human-caused disasters or emerging environmental public health threats in the U.S. and abroad.
Deadline: See the Funding Opportunity Announcement.
Molly Kile studies pregnant women and their children in Bangladesh to learn about noncancer effects of arsenic exposure.
Regional centers to provide knowledge mobilization support for scientists, health care professionals, and communities.
A new study is the first to link sleeping with artificial light at night with weight gain in women.
Workplace stress, substance use, and addiction were the primary topics for the 2019 Worker Training Program workshop.
Upcoming PEPH-Related Events
NIH Behavioral and Social Sciences Research Festival on the NIH Campus in Bethesda, Maryland. Save the date for the Annual NIH Behavioral and Social Sciences Research Festival! The purpose of the festival is to highlight recently funded behavioral and social sciences research that the NIH supports, bring together behavioral and social scientists within the NIH extramural and intramural communities to network with each other and share scientific ideas, and explore ways to advance behavioral and social sciences research. Stay tuned for more information.
Dec"Know Better Live Better" Social Impact Campaign Engages African-American Women in Environmental Health
FebCommunity-University Partnership Reveals Ongoing Contamination of Alaska Native Villages and the Environment