243232 Thinking globally, acting locally: An environmental justice community works to address the health effects of near-roadway pollution

Monday, October 31, 2011: 10:50 AM

Ellin Reisner, PhD , Community Partner, Somerville Transportation Equity Partnership, Somerville, MA
During an 8 year advocacy campaign for the state to honor a legal commitment (federal air quality conformity) to extend light rail service through Somerville, the Somerville Transportation Equity Partnership (STEP) has worked to educate community residents about scientific research on air pollution from motor vehicles that may increase rates of heart disease, asthma, and lung cancer because of exposure to near high¬way pollutants. Somerville is burdened by regional transportation infrastructure with 250.000 vehicles traveling through the city on highways and arterials daily, 200 commuter rail trains running through the city and by the region's commuter rail system maintenance facility, despite having no commuter rail service for city residents.

Aware of the consequences of mobile pollution to residents' health because of the regional transportation infrastructure, STEP initiated a partnership with Tufts University Schools of Medicine and Engineering and partners in Chinatown and Boston Public Housing to conduct a 5 year community based participatory research study funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

Somerville environmental justice neighborhoods experience the greatest burden from transportation infrastructure and also have the poorest access to public transit. Residents' concerns about what can be done to reduce exposure to ultrafine particulates led STEP, the city of Somerville and Tufts University to initiate a HUD Healthy Homes funded pilot study in Somerville's largest public housing development (next to I-93) to determine whether HEPA air filters can reduce indoor exposure to mobile pollution. In addition to local and regional transportation advocacy, STEP's efforts have focused statewide as well, working with our local state legislator on legislation that became part of the state Transportation Reform legislation in 2009 creating the interacgency “Healthy Transportation Compact” to make transportation decisions that balance the needs of all transportation users, expands mobility, improves public health, promotes sustainability and a cleaner environment.

Learning Areas:
Advocacy for health and health education
Environmental health sciences
Other professions or practice related to public health
Public health or related public policy

Learning Objectives:
Demonstrate the role of community based participatory research to engage residents, elected officials and policy makers about the health effects of near roadway pollution. Explain the critical local, regional, state and federal roles in addressing the negative health impacts of transportation infrastructure that has overburdened environmental justice communities.

Keywords: Environmental Justice, Policy/Policy Development

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am a co-investigator for the NIEHS funded Community Assessment of Freeway Exposure and Health (CAFEH) and for the HUD Healthy Homes funded Cardiovascular Health Benefits of Indoor Air Filtration (Clean Air Project). I am also a sociologist and am the President of the Somerville Transportation Equity Partnership (STEP).
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.