Environmental Health and Justice

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"Loved loved this program and words alone cannot express how much I learned. It was truly a life changing experience."
-JBS Environmental Health and Justice fall 2011

Click here to learn what other students have to say!

At a Glance

Program Overview

Engage directly with the community as you delve deeply into the law, policy, social impacts and science of pressing environmental justice and environmental health challenges facing individuals and families today.  You’ll work directly with some of the most disadvantaged communities from inner-city Boston and Waltham to the rural coal mining mountains of Appalachia, as we battle issues such as toxic exposure, access to safe housing, healthy food and open space.

Together with community members, you’ll strive to improve workplace health conditions, prevent homelessness, create urban gardens and ultimately produce a publishable environmental health study addressing a current vital need. As you go, you’ll gain essential knowledge and practical skills in housing, discrimination and toxics law, negotiation, advocacy, client counseling, health study design and analysis, presentation and much more.

Students in this program confront critical challenges to make REAL change.  You'll  learn integrated skills and understanding needed to “hit the ground running” in addressing real-world, complex, and multi-dimensional  environmental and social justice issues. 

Along with strong grounding in the academic material, we spend much of the semester is spent in the field and in the community. Most activities are done together as a group, from an initial stay on Cape Cod to a week-long trip to the mountains of Harlan, Kentucky, and throughout with numerous fieldwork trips, data-gathering visits, workshops with community partners, health study presentations, and hikes to breathtaking mountaintops.

This video was created by JBS participants Liza Ansher, Jenny Cheng, and Vivian Zeng.

Other Samples of what Students did in Fall 2011: 

  • Conducted an environmental health study to assess the level of toxic exposures to Vietnamese and other immigrant nail salon workers, soon to be submitted for publication. The students’ Nail Salon Air Quality Exposure study has generated considerable interest from scientists, regulators and advocates for better toxics controls and cosmetics and worker safety, and is featured on public health websites, like the Boston Public Health Commission.  The students were also invited to present their work at the the Academy of Sciences International Conference on Environmental Science and Technology 2012., as well as on Vietnamese cable TV and as keynote speakers at the  Toxic Use Reduction Institute/Norfolk County Public Health Committee Regional Safe Cosmetics Forum in March. To view a powerpoint of the Nail Salon Air Quality Exposure Study, click here.
  • Traveled to the mountain communities of rural Kentucky. Students worked with communities deeply affected by mountaintop removal for coal, witnessing the devastating ecological and human health impacts.  
  • Addressed high-risk housing issues and homelessness at the twice weekly Housing Advocacy Clinic at WATCH. All students in the JBS program became essential participants in this critical community service, gaining skills and training in housing and discrimination law, client interviewing and counseling, legal research, advocacy, negotiation and counseling. Working in teams, students prevented evictions, improved environmental and sanitary conditions, placed  families in  affordable housing and much more. 
  • Hosted “Healthy Homes” and Housing Rights trainings and workshops with the low-income immigrant mothers of the Waltham Family School. Among other things, students shared with the mothers the health risks of typical cleaning chemicals and products, and with them produced non-toxic alternatives that can be made for pennies. 
  • Partnered with Healthy Waltham and Waltham Fields Community Farm to improve understanding and access to healthy local food by working with school children to develop and improve community gardens.