142nd APHA Annual Meeting and Exposition

Annual Meeting Recordings are now available for purchase

Community Participation in Environmental Contaminants Research: Promoting Awareness and Encouraging Citizenship

142nd APHA Annual Meeting and Exposition (November 15 - November 19, 2014): http://www.apha.org/events-and-meetings/annual
Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Edward Lorenz, Doctor of History and Political Science , History and Political Sciences, Alma College, Alma, MI
Lydia Prebeck, Undergraduate , Health Sciences, Alma College, Alma, MI
Brittney Roggow, Undergraduate , Health Sciences, Alma College, Alma, MI
Katherine Vaillancourt, Undergraduate , History, Alma College, Alma, MI
In St. Louis, Michigan, in 1973, Velsicol chemical plant carelessly mixed a flame retardant composed of polybrominated-bisphenol (PBB), rather than a nutritional supplement, with animal feed that was distributed to farms throughout Michigan. Shipments persisted for one year before the contamination was discovered. During this year, the meat from the contaminated livestock was consumed by Michigan residents throughout the state. Community involvement to manage the environmental repercussions of this pollution sprouted from investigations of the contaminated feed. At this time, it was also discovered that Velsicol improperly disposed of other chemicals and failed to manage the environmental effects of mass chemical production. PBB and other chemicals can be found in environment in St. Louis and, forty years after the initial contamination, effects of the chemicals on the health of residents and their offspring is still of concern.  

By engaging more community members in dialogue regarding the contamination and the effects it has had on health, this study reviews lessons from efforts to increase community participation in responsibly diminishing the effects of the residual chemicals in St. Louis. This presentation will provide an in depth analysis of the contamination caused by the Velsicol plant, its repercussions, and the community’s response. It will emphasize the work of organizing a diverse community to tackle the clean-up and empower citizens to effectively interact with experts from government and higher education.

Learning Areas:

Communication and informatics
Environmental health sciences
Public health or related public policy
Public health or related research
Systems thinking models (conceptual and theoretical models), applications related to public health

Learning Objectives:
Define the community concerns caused by the contamination of the town of Saint Louis, Michigan and the Pine River. List community groups involved in the efforts to clean-up the contamination. Describe how community participation has instigated active clean-up of the contaminated area. Explain how civic empowerment can be used to combat industrial contamination of local communities. Identify the factors that have made the local EPA community advisory group efficient and effective. Demonstrate greater appreciation of the need for a unified community and collective action. Differentiate between community and academic perspectives in remediating the clean-up. Formulate arguments regarding how community involvement better facilitates actions to improve environmental conditions. Assess relations between bureaucratic organizations and civic groups whose joint mission is to promote the removal of environmental contaminants. Name several successful outcomes of cooperative community and academic involvement to reduce exposures to contamination.

Keyword(s): Activism, Chemical Exposures & Prevention

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am a professor of public policy at Alma College as well as Chair of the Public Health Committee of the EPA community advisory group. I have been a co-author of a study of DDT contamination in Environmental Health Perspectives and other scholarly, peer reviewed publications. I have presented previously at the APHA.
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.