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Your Environment. Your Health.

Addressing Fugitive Chemical Health Risks through Community-Based Actions Study

Partnerships for Environmental Public Health (PEPH)

Study Location: Sunset Park, New York City

Study Website: http://www.rand.org/jie/projects/grasp.html

Academic Partners: 
Rand Corporation
Ramya Chari, Ph.D.

The Lifeline Group
Christine F. Chaisson, Ph.D.

Community Partners:
New York City Environmental Justice Alliance
Eddie Bautista

UPROSE
Elizabeth Yeampierre, J.D.

Project Description

Sunset Park auto shop

This auto shop in the Sunset Park area is surrounded by a restaurant and residences.
(Photo courtesy of Ramya Chari)

This project aims to empower communities to address risks from chemical releases due to storm surges and flooding. Coastal storms heighten the potential for hazardous chemicals to spread due to facility damage, storm surge, and flooding — creating "fugitive" chemicals. Because of their co-location in residential areas, some small businesses that use hazardous chemicals are sources of concern. This project will develop a unique community-based intervention called the Business Innovations for Resilience & Community Health (BIRCH). This intervention will help small businesses implement practices aimed at containing chemicals during disasters, thereby helping protect the health of the local community by reducing exposure risk.

Through an existing partnership between community and research groups, this project will launch a new risk assessment framework that incorporates a community-based participatory research approach wherein community members collect data. The study will focus on automotive repair and maintenance shops in the industrialized waterfront neighborhood of Sunset Park, New York City. Although auto shops are sources of concern, they are also committed partners in these community-based actions.

The specific aims of this project are to:

  • Engage community auto shop owners through the establishment of a Business Resilience Team and to inventory shop chemicals, their vulnerability to release, and potential health impacts.
  • Use modeling to characterize exposures to fugitive chemicals from auto shops.
  • Measure whether implementing best management practices to prevent or lessen chemical releases from auto shops helped reduce exposures and associated health risks.
  • Pilot test the Business Resilience Toolbox as a resource for auto shops to implement best management practices to reduce fugitive chemical risks.