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Your Environment. Your Health.

Protecting Children from Contaminants at School

Partnerships for Environmental Public Health (PEPH)

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Protecting Children from Contaminants at School

January 14, 2013

Experts: Phil Brown, Ph.D., Amelia Rose

Schools built on hazardous waste sites? Yes, it really happens. In 1978, the discovery of toxic chemicals leaching into schools and homes built atop a former landfill brought international attention to a small New York neighborhood called Love Canal. The Love Canal story helped spark a national movement to address the toxic legacies of the past.

In 2002, researchers mapped school sites in just five states and found more than 1,100 schools located within a half-mile of a known contaminated site, affecting more than 600,000 children in California, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, and New York [1].

In this podcast: how researchers and community members teamed up to investigate contamination at Rhode Island schools.


Phil Brown, Ph.D.

Phil Brown, Ph.D., is University Distinguished Professor of sociology and health sciences and director of the Social Science Environmental Health Research Institute at Northeastern University. From 1980 to 2012, he taught at Brown University as professor of sociology and environmental Studies. At Brown, he served as director of the Community Engagement Core of Brown’s Superfund Research Program, director of the Community Outreach and Translation Core of Brown’s Children’s Environmental Health Center, and co-director of the Contested Illnesses Research Group. His recent books are "Toxic Exposures: Contested Illnesses and the Environmental Health Movement" and "Contested Illnesses: Citizens, Science and Health Social Movements" .

Amelia Rose

Amelia Rose has been the director of the Environmental Justice League of Rhode Island since 2008. In this role, she has led a two-year stakeholder process to identify toxic hazards in Providence and develop an action plan to address them, and has initiated campaigns related to brownfield remediation, school siting, stormwater management, and access to healthy foods. Prior to coming to Rhode Island, Amelia worked as an organizer for the Washington Interfaith Network in Washington, D.C. focusing on housing code enforcement and public safety campaigns. She also worked with the Unitarian Universalist Association advocating for federal human needs programs like Medicaid and Head Start. Most recently she worked in Rhode Island as an organizer for Toxics Action Center, providing organizing assistance to residents working on environmental campaigns in their towns. Amelia is originally from Northern Virginia and graduated from Mary Washington College where she studied anthropology.

For More Information

Search by zip code to learn about sources of pollution in your area.

Brown University Superfund Research Program
Explore studies on vapor intrusion and other areas of cutting-edge environmental health research being conducted at the Brown Superfund Research Program.

Environmental Justice League of Rhode Island
A non-profit organization focused on addressing the unequal environmental burdens faced by low-income and minority-dominated communities in Rhode Island.

Rhode Island’s School Siting Law
Learn more about the 2012 passage of Rhode Island’s school siting law, “Environmental Cleanup Objectives for Schools.”

Center for Health, Environment, and Justice
A national non-profit dedicated to helping grassroots community groups promote environmental health and justice.

Vapor Intrusion
Explore basic information about vapor intrusion from the EPA.

Vapor Intrusion at Superfund
Find vapor intrusion FAQ’s, community involvement opportunities, and screening information related to Superfund sites.

Vapor Intrusion Mitigation Approaches
A report from the EPA about engineering controls designed to mitigate the effects of vapor intrusion.


[1] Child Proofing Our Communities Campaign (2002). Creating Safe Learning Zones: Invisible Threats, Visible Actions. Center for Health, Environment and Justice, Falls Church, Virginia.

Additional references

Yao Y, Pennell KG, Suuberg EM. 2011. Vapor intrusion in urban settings: effect of foundation features and source location. Procedia Environmental Sciences v.4:245–250. DOI: .

Yao Y, Shen R, Pennell KG, Suuberg EM. 2011. Comparison of the Johnson-Ettinger vapor intrusion screening model predictions with full three-dimensional model results. Environ Sci Technol 45(6):2227-35. DOI: .

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