Lab Matters Summer 2022 | Page 12


Biomonitoring and Environmental Justice

By Kenneth Aldous , Division of Environmental Health Sciences , Wadsworth Center , New York State Department of Health and Antonia M . Calafat , Division of Laboratory Sciences , National Center for Environmental Health , US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Over 200 people from 34 states attended APHL ’ s virtual National Biomonitoring Meeting : A Systems Approach for State Biomonitoring Programs , planned by the National Biomonitoring Network ( NBN ) Steering Committee . NBN members requested environmental justice be a priority at this year ’ s meeting , and attendees awarded the environmental justice session with highest ratings in the post-meeting evaluation .
The environmental justice and biomonitoring session offered attendees three engaging presentations :
• Gary Adamkiewicz , PhD , MPH , associate professor of Environmental Health and Exposure Disparities and director of the Healthy Cities Lab at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health , discussed the connections between the built environment and health , and why many disparities in environmental exposures closely relate to where individuals live and to systemic and racist policies .
• Esther Erdei , PhD , MPH , MSc Hons , MEd , research assistant professor at the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center and the core director of Community Engagement and Outreach at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences Center for Native American Environmental Health Equity Research , spoke about integrating biomarkers of exposure and effect in studies of underrepresented communities , especially tribal communities in the southwest and midwest United States . Substantial portions of tribal land are contaminated with heavy metals originating from mine waste . Erdei highlighted important considerations for engaging communities that use lands for subsistence and have a close cultural connection with environmental stewardship .
• Yoshira Ornelas Van Horne , PhD , a postdoctoral research associate in the Division of Environmental Health at the University of Southern California and the assistant director of Curriculum Development & Cohort Engagement at Agents of Change in Environmental Justice , shared thoughtful recommendations on how best to engage people living in structurally marginalized communities facing disproportionate exposure to contamination .
A lively panel discussion was moderated by Marc Nascarella , PhD , chief toxicologist at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health . Presenters offered practical considerations when designing a biomonitoring study for engaging individuals from diverse racial , ethnic or tribal community populations . Ornelas Van Horne suggested that offering community members an opportunity to visit a state public health laboratory and talk with scientists would help demystify some study details and the experience of being a biomonitoring study participant . She offered this hands-on approach as a practical way to engender trust within a community and provide an opportunity to discuss actual biomonitoring study procedures , including a realistic timeframe for the many needed study steps ( e . g ., results reporting ). Erdei urged state public health laboratory scientists to consider how structural racism combined with potential loss of funding for laboratory services may contribute to marginalized communities ’ reluctance to engage with study investigators . For example , loss of funding for a specific environmental testing service once offered ( e . g ., community water testing ) may contribute to systemic distrust of laboratory studies within a community . Adamkiewicz recommended that states ensure environmental justice is a deliberate consideration within any study design that seeks to address environmental exposures . He described how differences in access to certain consumer products ( e . g ., cleaners ,
10 LAB MATTERS Summer 2022
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