Community Engagement Core
Boston University School of Public Health
Residents of communities affected by exposures to hazardous substances often seek scientific, technical and legal expertise to deal with the health and environmental consequences of contamination. BUSRP believes that scientists have a responsibility to work with residents for a healthier environment and we formed the Community Engagement Core (CEC) to connect our research with community needs.
Our goal is to link scientists with community groups in affected neighborhoods to raise awareness of environmental and public health concerns, increase the utility of BUSRP research, and support residents in efforts to achieve cleaner and healthier environments. We work to reduce exposures to environmental hazards and prevent adverse health outcomes by forming partnerships, building networks and resources, and sharing our research with community advocates.
As part of our work, the CEC, Research Translation Core, and several of our research projects have been responding to concerns and engaging with the community surrounding the New Bedford Harbor in an effective interdisciplinary approach since 1995. Learn more about the history of the harbor and our work there.
The CEC partners closely with NorthStar Learning Centers and Toxics Action Center, two local community groups working with affected residents in New Bedford and across New England, and the Science & Environmental Health Network (SEHN), a national network using science to restore public and ecosystem health. We also operate with the active participation of BUSRP principal investigators, student trainees, and research staff.
Community Engagement Partners
NorthStar Learning Centers help young people overcome poverty, discrimination, educational disadvantage, violence, and other adversity through learning essential competencies and hopefulness with which they can transform their lives and communities. Founded in 1974, Northstar has grown from one neighborhood-based preschool center to a constellation of programs that serve New Bedford area children from birth to adulthood.
Science & Environmental Health Network (SEHN) is a national organization that engages communities and governments in the effective application of science to protect and restore public and ecosystem health. SEHN encourages the practice of science in the public interest and the accurate interpretation of scientific information; identifies information, ethical concepts, and logic that have the potential to provoke essential change; and helps communities, organizations, and governments develop and implement sound environmental policies.
Toxics Action Center works side-by-side with communities across New England, providing residents with the skills and resources needed to prevent or clean up pollution at the local level. Toxics Action Center trains neighbors to not only defend their health and safety, but to think strategically and come together for proactive, positive change. Check out Toxics in Massachusetts: A Town-By-Town Profile, one of the products of our collaboration.
Health Studies Guide. Are you concerned about environmental health in your neighborhood? Would conducting a health study facilitate the change you want to see? The Health Studies Guide is designed to help community groups clarify questions and goals, determine whether or not a health study is an appropriate strategy to investigate an environmental health concern, and develop a strategic plan to ensure that the health study produces the information that the community wants and needs. Organized into seven chapters, the Health Studies Guide includes first person narratives, creative graphics and a glossary of useful words and terms. The Health Studies Guide reflects the efforts of many organizations including Center for Health, Environment & Justice (CHEJ), Greater Boston Physicians for Social Responsibility (GBPSR), Toxics Action Center and students and faculty affiliated with Brown University SRP CEC. Want to learn more? Listen to Madeleine Scammell (CEC), Sylvia Broude of Toxics Action Center and Stephen Lester of CHEJ discuss the guide.
PFAS chemicals and community health. PFAS, or polyfluoroalkyl substances, are a large group of man-made toxic chemicals. (PFAS are sometimes also called PFCs, or perfluorinated compounds.) In recent years, some PFAS chemicals have been found at high levels in drinking water systems around the world. The recent discovery of groundwater contamination with PFAS across New England, affecting private and municipal drinking water supplies, required a coordinated response. PFAS is a class of contaminants with a variety of forms from a variety of affected communities (e.g., manufacturing communities, military bases, and fire fighters), and we need to address all of them. We worked with Toxics Action Center, with input from numerous community groups and experts, to design and create a comprehensive website with Q&A, links to resources, and information on PFAS for communities that have contaminated drinking water. Want additional information on Polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS)? Take a look at our factsheet for communities affected by PFAS-contaminated water.
HEAR database. The Heath and Environment Assistance Resources (HEAR) database is a collaborative project of Alternatives for Community & Environment (ACE), Toxics Action Center, and BUSPH to connect community groups with experts who are dedicated to building a cleaner, healthier environment. The database is a tool for increasing and diversifying the expertise available to community groups with environmental and public health concerns. Every day, each of our organizations is called by concerned residents seeking legal, scientific, medical and technical expertise. Through the database, we link community groups with scientists, lawyers, and experts in environmental health to form partnerships that catalyze change. Do you have expertise you can share? Include yourself in the database today.
Additional Tools for Communities. Produced by BUSRP researchers and partner organizations, these resources are useful to residents with questions or concerns about health or contamination. Check out tools for engaging youth in contemporary environmental health issues, informative factsheets (PFAS, PCBs in New Bedford, 1,4 Dioxane, and Compact Fluorescent Lightbulbs), historic resident-led environmental victories and more.
Project 1 : Researchers are studying how a chemical found in drinking water, called tetrachloroethylene or PCE, can affect babies in the womb and infants. They are finding that having this chemical in their bodies early in life can play a role in them choosing to use drugs or alcohol when they become teenagers or adults. The study is focused in Southeast Massachusetts. Researchers are studying how exposure to a fetus or infant to drinking water contaminated by a chemical called tetrachloroethylene, or “PCE,” affects health later in life. Specifically, researchers are finding that such early life exposure can influence the likelihood of using drugs or alcohol as teenagers and adults. The study is focused in Southeast Massachusetts where drinking water pipes caused widespread exposure to PCE. However, PCE is a very common drinking water contaminate throughout the United States, especially near landfills and former industrial sites.
Project 2: Researchers are studying how social stressors, for example, violence, and exposures to chemicals affect the fetus. Specifically, they are looking for the effects on the brain and behaviors later in life. They are finding that there is a link between the exposure experienced in the womb, and risky behaviors later in life, as teenagers. This research is taking place in New Bedford, near the New Bedford Harbor Superfund Site and includes lead and other metals in addition to PCBs. The researchers also are working on getting a better understanding of all the chemicals that people in this community are currently exposed to, in order to see what more can be done to reduce risks to health in New Bedford and beyond.
Project 3: Researchers are studying how toxic chemicals cause metabolic syndrome (including obesity, high cholesterol, heart disease, diabetes) while also contributing to poor bone quality that can result in bone fractures later in life (e.g., osteoporosis). Bones and fat have a special relationship; they both originate in the same “precursor” cells which can develop to become either bone cells or fat cells. Researchersare doing experiments in mice, zebrafish, and human cells to study what happens in bone and fat cells when specific chemicals found in New Bedford Harbor are present. Mice and zebrafish are often used to study how these chemicals change normal development in people because their DNA is very similar to the DNA found in people and these models allow understanding at the level of the DNA. The specific chemicals that these researchers are studying are PCBs, PFAS, tributyl tin and organophosphate flame retardants.
Project 4: Researchers are studying a certain species of called the Atlantic killifish. While the species is common along the Atlantic coast, some fish that live in contaminated waters, including New Bedford Harbor, have evolved differently from other fish in waters that do not contain toxic chemicals. This is because they have, over time and several generations, adapted to the chemicals in the water. Researchers are working to understand this adaptation, specifically looking at changes that have occurred to the fish embryo DNA. One of the big questions they are trying to answer that is important for understanding how the same chemicals affect humans, is “At what biological cost have these fish evolved resistance to toxic effects of PCBs and other chemicals?”
Project 5: Researchers are studying the DNA in zebrafish embryos to understand how changes to the DNA in embryozebrafish cause hyperactive behavior in zebrafish. Seventy percent of human genes can be found in zebrafish. Researchers hope to link these findings in the zebrafish to humans, specifically considering that a similar change in a person’s gene can be connected to hyperactivity disorders that this person may experience. Zebrafish are often used to study genetic causes of human illness as well as human responses to chemicals in the environment.
- July 2018 CEC and RTC Leaders meet with community surrounding New Bedford Harbor
- OCT 2017 Madeleine Scammell featured for Activist Month by BU School of Public Health
- OCT 2017 BUSRP leaders participate in Find the Cause fundraiser
- SEP 2017 BUSRP participates in BU School of Public Health Showcase
- SEP 2017 Madeleine Scammell participates in joint NIEHS meeting of PEPH and DR2
- AUG 2017 Madeleine Scammell and Wendy Heiger-Bernays participate in 2017 ISCHE Retreat
- AUG 2017 CEC partners support Superfund program
- JUN 2017 BUSRP commentary on prevention published on WBUR
- JUN 2017 BUSRP program-wide meeting strengthens collaborations
- MAY 2017 CHE–BUSRP call on Spanish Translation and the Health Studies Guide
- MAY 2017 Madeleine Scammell featured in PEPH Grantee Highlight
- APR 2017 Madeleine Scammell wins ONES award
- MAR 2017 New study shows New Bedford Harbor is major source of airborne PCBs
- MAR 2017 CEC presents at Local Environmental Action conference
- JAN 2017 Share your PFAS expertise with affected communities
- JAN 2017 BUSRP hosts community engagement workshop
- DEC 2016 CHE-BUSRP call on PFAS a success
- DEC 2016 CEC and RTC Leaders meet with community surrounding New Bedford Harbor
- DEC 2016 BUSRP presents at NIEHS FEST
- DEC 2016 New factsheet for communities affected by PFAS contamination
- DEC 2016 New website for HEAR database launched
- DEC 2016 Upcoming Event: CHE–BUSRP call on health hazards and community responses to PFAS-contaminated water
- OCT 2016 9th International PCB Workshop in Japan includes plenary by Madeleine Scammell
- OCT 2016 Alaska Community Action on Toxics hosts Children’s Environmental Health Summit: Madeleine Scammell presents
- SEP 2016 SRPs meet with regulatory agencies on air monitoring project
- AUG 2016 Toxics Action Center annual staff retreat features BUSRP and the HEAR database
- AUG 2016 Chapter 3 of Health Studies Guide translated into Spanish
- AUG 2016 First chapters of Health Studies Guide are translated into Spanish
- JUL 2016 BUSRP co-hosts conference on NIEHS Superfund program
- JUL 2016 BUSRP runs Environmental Health Lab Day for Upward Bound Math Science students
- JUL 2016 Book Review: The Toxic Schoolhouse
- MAY 2016 Upcoming Event: ACE’s annual Jammin’ for Justice
- MAY 2016 BUSRP CEC Leader quoted on contamination in Midwest
- MAY 2016 Collaborative vapor intrusion study topic of latest SRP Research Brief
- APR 2016 BUSRP and Iowa SRP discuss air quality monitoring with EPA and MassDEP
- APR 2016 Upcoming Webinar Featuring BUSRP RTC and CEC
- APR 2016 What’s In Your Fish? Forum: An innovative and educational event!
- MAR 2016 Iowa SRP trainee Bailey Hadnott visits BU
- MAR 2016 Health Studies Guide Workshop at LEA 2016
- FEB 2016 Focus Group for What’s In Your Fish? Forum a Success!
- DEC 2015 Upcoming Event: CHE call on Is a Health Study the Answer for Your Community?
- DEC 2015 Meet and Greet at US EPA Atlantic Ecology Division
- NOV 2015 BUSRP Highlights from the 2015 SRP Annual Meeting
- NOV 2015 CEC attends EPA public meeting in New Bedford
- NOV 2015 New England SRPs visit EPA Region 1
- NOV 2015 CEC Leader Madeleine Scammell attends Iowa SRP EAC meeting
- OCT 2015 BUSRP and Museum plan public forum on fish with stakeholder input
- OCT 2015 BUSRP investigators participate in Research on Tap
- OCT 2015 2015-2016 EH Seminar features BUSRP Investigators
- SEP 2015 Data dialogue: scientific, organizing, and legal discussions with the community
- SEP 2015 SRP research focus of EPA Diversity Event
- SEP 2015 CEC article with partner ACE among top read in EJ Journal
- AUG 2015 Community engagement strategy underway in air monitoring study
- AUG 2015 Union of Concerned Scientists blog highlights importance of community-based research
- JUL 2015 Collaborative publication on RT/CE by BU and Iowa SRPs
- JUN 2015 SRPs and partners meet with the community to plan air monitoring study
- JUN 2015 BU and Iowa SRPs receive funding to study air-borne PCBs in response to community concern
- JUN 2015 Upcoming Event: RTC partner CHE presents A Story of Developmental Disability, A Story of Health
- MAY 2015 BUSRP at the 2015 Social Science-Environmental Health Collaborations Conference
- MAY 2015 ACE hosts EPA session on EJScreen & EJ 2020
- APR 2015 Community Responsive PCB Factsheet
- APR 2015 ACE hosts EPA session on EJScreen & EJ 2020
- APR 2015 Another Year, Another Success! LEA 2015
- FEB 2015 Upcoming Event: Local Environmental Action Conference on March 15th
- JAN 2015 CEC Leader provides all-staff training to partner TAC
- JAN 2015 Upcoming Event: RTC partner CHE presents A Story of Childhood Leukemia, a Story of Health: Genetic and Environmental Risk Factors for Childhood Leukemia
- NOV 2014 Congratulations MA EJ Alliance & ACE on the historic signing of the Executive Order on Environmental Justice!
- NOV 2014 CEC Leader Madeleine Scammell Awarded JPB Environmental Health Fellowship
- OCT 2014 Community Responsive Workshop & EH Clinic Pilot in New Bedford
- OCT 2014 Engaging Community at the Eighth International PCB Workshop
- OCT 2014 Gardening & Soil Analysis Workshop in Chelsea
- SEP 2014 Upcoming Workshop: A Dialogue on Cumulative Impacts in New Bedford
- SEP 2014 Second Annual EH Clinic at Malden River Festival 2014
- SEP 2014 Project 1 attends ACE’s EJ Toxic Tour!
- MAY 2014 BUSRP at EPA Regional Science Council Forum
- MAY 2014 Annual Soil Testing at City Farm Fest
- APR 2014 Soil Testing at City Farm Fest on May 10th
- APR 2014 Marine Pollution Inspiration for Falmouth High School Ceramics Class
- APR 2014 Risk Communication Planning
- MAR 2014 Water Quality and Human Health the focus of Open Classroom
- MAR 2014 BUSRP at Local Environmental Action 2014
- FEB 2014 Free Events Today: Film Screening & Water Lecture
- FEB 2014 Addressing Health Risks and Regulation of 1,4 Dioxane in Eastham, MA
- FEB 2014 Dr. Scammell presents seminar on Exposure, Risk, & Regulation
- DEC 2013 Training & Outreach Day at the Museum of Science, Boston
- NOV 2013 Free Soil Lead Testing for Community Gardners
- OCT 2013 Madeleine Scammell co-edits new book The Toxic Schoolhouse
- OCT 2013 Upcoming Event: CHE Partnership Call on Environmental Justice and the Superfund Research Program: Community Collaborations Making a Difference
- SEP 2013 Environmental Health Clinic Piloted at Malden River Fest 2013
- SEP 2013 Community Engagement Partner ACE awarded 2013 EPA Environmental Justice Small Grant
- JUL 2013 Dr. Scammell to present at Environmental Health Disparities & Environmental Justice Meeting
- JUL 2013 BUSRP participates in Museum of Science Summer Youth Interns’ Discussion with Environmental Health Experts
- JUN 2013 June 18 CHEJ Webinar on the Health Studies Guide
- MAY 2013 Health Studies Guide for community groups now available!
- MAY 2013 Exposure assessment at urban farm festival
- APR 2013 BUSRP offering soil testing at City Farm Fest on May 11
- MAR 2013 BUSRP hosts exposure assessment training for community partners
- FEB 2013 CEC partners urge extension of MA incinerator moratorium as part of “Zero Waste” Campaign
- SEP 2011 BUSRP Co-Organizer of Oct. 5 Food Safety Event at the Museum of Science
- FEB 2011 BUSRP cosponsors Environmental Action 2011
- APR 2010 “Environmental Threats to Healthy Aging” lecture video available
- JUN 2009 Nelson and Scammell speak at research translation workshop
- JUN 2009 Community Outreach Core holds web conference on communication tools
- JAN 2009 New publication from the BU SBRP Community Outreach Core
- NOV 2008 Community Outreach in New Bedford
- SEP 2008 New Research Translation and Community Outreach staff