Reducing Toxic Exposure Risk

Students on the program will take the following three courses:
  • AMST 102aj:  Environmental Health, Social Justice, and Empowerment
  • BISC 6bj:  Environmental Health
  • ENVS102aj:  Field Research and Study Methods

The courses will be taught by Professor Laura Goldin with Dr. James Stewart, Ted Myatt, Joseph Allen, and Matt Fragala. The courses will run concurrently throughout the fall semester. Students will earn 16 credits and the program counts towards one of the semesters that students need in order to graduate.

How the courses count:
  • AMST 102aj can be used towards the Writing Intensive or Oral Communication requirement (please see the University Bulletin for complete details)
  • AMST 102aj can be used to fulfill elective requirements in Environmental Studies (Social Science/Humanities Group), Legal Studies, Women’s and Gender Studies, International and Global Studies (Economy, Health, and Environment), and Social Justice and Social Policy
  • ENVS 102aj can be used towards the elective requirement for IGS (Economy, Health, and Environment), and Environmental Studies (Natural Sciences Group or Social Science/Humanities Group )
  • BISC 6bj can be used to fulfill elective requirements in Environmental Studies (Natural Sciences Group) and Health: Science, Society, and Policy (Focal Area A and Focal Area B), and elective requirement for IGS (Economy, Health, and Environment)
  • The Social Science distribution requirement will be met
  • The Science distribution requirement will be met
1. AMST 102aj:  Environment, Social Justice, and Empowerment

Taught by Professor Laura Goldin

Instruction and engagement with the Waltham and Boston area communities in environmental justice and toxic exposure and health concepts and issues as they affect families, communities, women and minorities.

Students will explore the law, policy, science, history and social impacts of current environmental health issues challenging individuals, families and communities today. We will focus on low-income, immigrant populations, and challenges ranging from exposure to contaminated water and food to dealing with the effects of climate change. Students will become involved first-hand with the topics studied through field trips and visiting speakers, discussions with the stakeholders themselves, field observation, research, writing and reflection. They also will collaborate directly with community organizations, government agencies and individuals, participating in the law and policy in action as we explore initiatives for addressing local environmental health challenges, such as the EPA Lead Enforcement Initiative and the Lead Action Collaborative program to reduce childhood lead paint exposure in high-risk housing, and Alternative for Community and Environment’s initiative to reduce asthma triggers such as diesel pollution in low-income neighborhoods.

Throughout the JBS, students also will address the particular challenges of toxic exposures in low income housing in Waltham through twice-weekly work at the Waltham Alliance to Create Housing’s (WATCH) “Tenant Advocacy Clinic”, organized and staffed by my classes in collaboration with the Boston College Law School Legal Assistance Bureau and Greater Boston Legal Services. All students will become trained advocates at the Advocacy Clinic, meeting in teams with clients to hear concerns, provide assistance, furnish information on basic legal rights and provide targeted referrals to other needed social services. Students will learn the applicable substantive housing and discrimination law and the relationship between toxic exposure and housing conditions, as well as critical skills such as interviewing, legal research, and application of facts to law, negotiation, written and oral advocacy and case management, and working with low income and multi-ethnic communities. Students may also see selected housing cases as they proceed through the court system, and work in collaboration with the Harvard Law “No One Leaves” eviction prevention program and local organizations on direct intervention initiatives with low income tenants in the Boston area to prevent homelessness and sub-standard housing conditions due to foreclosures.

2. BISC 6bj:  Environmental Health

Taught by Professor James Stewart et al. & Professor Laura Goldin

This course will introduce students to the science and tools of environmental health, and give students hands-on skills to explore directly exposure issues experienced by local, primarily low-income communities through fieldwork and studies. Students will be introduced to the tools of toxicology, epidemiology and risk assessment as applied to specific environmental issues such as air and water quality and chemical contamination, and the impact on human health of environmental contamination with toxic, carcinogenic, or pathogenic agents. One specific focus of study will be on understanding environmental exposure issues in residential settings, and in particular within low income communities. Students will learn the potential environmental health effects of particulate exposures (fine, ultrafine, etc.) nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, lead, hormone disruptors, mold and aldehydes.

Students will use their environmental health monitoring and assessment and other tools in a supervised settings in the field along with community partners or government agencies. Student fieldwork might involve calibrating equipment, planning inspections, accompanying inspectors, taking measurements, participating in evaluation of worker protection at remediation sites, analyzing sampling data, participating in the regulatory enforcement process, or other tasks. Potential partners include environmental health specialists from the Boston Public Health Commission, Department of Public Health, Department of Environmental Protection, a municipal Public Health department, or residential lead inspectors. With these partners, students may address a range of possible community hazards such as lead, mold, formaldehyde, unknown chemicals smell reports, radon, carbon monoxide, infectious diseases, diesel exhaust and cat or other allergens.

3. ENVS 102aj:  Field Research and Study Methods

Taught by Professor James Stewart et al. & Professor Laura Goldin

This course is designed as the skills and methods component of the Environmental Health and Justice JBS. The course will train students in environmental health study design, sampling methodology, field research, use of environmental health field equipment, data interpretation, statistical analysis and risk communication The course will equip students to carry out an environmental health research study integral to the themes of the EH&J JBS in collaboration with a local environmental justice organization, and prepare and present their findings to community groups and o the scientific community, possibly at a scientific conference. This course would be offered only in the context of the Environmental Health and Justice JBS.