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  1. One-third of children globally have blood lead levels (BLLs) exceeding the (former) US CDC reference value of 5 μg/dL; this value may be as high as one-half for children in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Lead exposure occurs through a variety of routes (e.g., water, dust, air), and in LMICs specifically, informal economies (e.g., battery recycling) can drive lead exposures due, in part, to absent regulation. Previous work by our team identified a ubiquitous source of lead (Pb), in the form of Pb-containing components used in manually operated pumps, in Toamasina, Madagascar. Characterization of BLLs of children exposed to this drinking water, and identification of additional exposure routes were needed. BLLs were measured for 362 children (aged 6 months to 6 years) in parallel with surveying to assess 14 risk factors related to demographics/socioeconomics, diet, use of pitcher pumps, and parental occupations. BLL data were also compared against a recent meta-review of BLLs for LMICs. Median childhood BLL (7.1 μg/dL) was consistent with those of other Sub-Saharan African LMICs (6.8 μg/dL) and generally higher than LMICs in other continents. Risk factors significantly associated (p < 0.05, univariate logistic regression) with elevated BLL (at ≥ 5 μg/dL) included male gender, livingmore »near a railway or major roadway (owing potentially to legacy lead pollution), having lower-cost flooring, daily consumption of foods (beans, vegetables, rice) commonly cooked in recycled aluminum pots (a previously identified lead source for this community), and a maternal occupation (laundry-person) associated with lower socioeconomic status (SES). Findings were similar at the ≥ 10 μg/dL BLL status. Our methods and findings may be appropriate in identifying and reducing lead exposures for children in other urbanizing cities, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa, where lead exposure routes are complex and varied owing to informal economics and substantial legacy pollution.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available May 11, 2023
  2. Lead (Pb) exposure through water contamination is an important issue at the intersection of public health and water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH). Behavior-change programs designed to address this pressing problem rarely take a behavioral-science-informed approach, nor do they consider the role of intermediate players who often influence and support behavior change. Social marketing segments the population and focuses on the consumer/user throughout program development and implementation. To illustrate the social marketing process, this cross-sectional, qualitative design study investigates the use of Pb in the construction and maintenance of household pitcher pumps for potable water in Madagascar. A sample of 18 technicians were interviewed on their current practices, motivators, barriers, and communication channels for knowledge exchange. The results reveal the importance of peers, those considered experts or “market mavens”, and the need for information on the dangers of Pb as an outdated practice for any future intervention. This study advances the notion of a design shift within engineering WASH projects, whereby social/behavioral approaches are used to consider the needs, concerns, and current behaviors of the consumer. We also advocate for engaging intermediate players who often influence behavior change in the rollout of an engineering innovation.
  3. Communities of color are disproportionately burdened by environmental pollution and by obstacles to influence policies that impact environmental health. Black, Hispanic, and Native American students and faculty are also largely underrepresented in environmental engineering programs in the United States. Nearly 80 participants of a workshop at the 2019 Association of Environmental Engineering and Science Professors (AEESP) Research and Education Conference developed recommendations for reversing these trends. Workshop participants identified factors for success in academia, which included adopting a broader definition for the impact of research and teaching. Participants also supported the use of community-based participatory research and classroom action research methods in engineering programs for recruiting, retaining, and supporting the transition of underrepresented students into professional and academic careers. However, institutions must also evolve to recognize the academic value of community-based work to enable faculty, especially underrepresented minority faculty, who use it effectively, to succeed in tenure promotions. Workshop discussions elucidated potential causal relationships between factors that influence the co-creation of research related to academic skills, community skills, mutual trust, and shared knowledge. Based on the discussions from this workshop, we propose a pathway for increasing diversity and community participation in the environmental engineering discipline by exposing students to community-basedmore »participatory methods, establishing action research groups for faculty, broadening the definition of research impact to improve tenure promotion experiences for minority faculty, and using a mixed methods approach to evaluate its impact.« less
  4. Building a diverse workforce is a challenge that is mutually experienced across sectors, yet each sector also has successes to share in efforts towards a more diverse and inclusive workforce. This interactive session will highlight case studies across sectors including industry, municipal, academia and professional societies (WEF) and the impacts of various programs on their local communities and provide insights on moving the industry's diversity and inclusion forward as a whole. Panelists will present case studies and experiences highlighting challenges and opportunities to strengthen the pipeline of leaders in the water industry and recruitment and retention strategies to attract a diverse workforce. Panelists will each give a brief presentation, followed by an interactive panel discussion facilitated by the moderator. Participants across sectors, can glean from the various perspectives and experiences of utility leaders, academic professors, professional societies, and students.
  5. A Novel Community Engaged System Thinking Approach to Controlling Nutrient Pollution in the Belize Cayes Nutrient pollution (anthropogenic discharge of nitrogen and phosphate) is a major concern in many parts of the world. Excess nutrient discharge into nutrient limited waters can cause toxic algal blooms that lead to hypoxic zones, fish die-offs, and overgrowth on reefs. This can lead to coral reefs being more vulnerable to global warming and ocean acidification. For coastal communities that depend of fishing and tourism for their livelihood, and for reefs to protect coastlines, these effects can be devastating. A major source of nutrient input into the aquatic environment is poorly treated wastewater from Onsite Wastewater Treatment Systems (OWTS). When properly sited, built, and maintained conventional OWTS are great for removing fats, grease, biological oxygen demand (BOD), and total suspended solids (TSS), but they are rarely designed for nutrient removal and commonly have high nutrient levels in their effluent. This study investigates the factors that influence the performance of OWTS, the Caribbean region’s most common type of treatment technology, in the Belizean Cayes where salt water flushing is common. Using mass-balance-based models for existing and proposed OWTS to predict the system’s performance under various conditions,more »along with OWTS’ owner, maintainer, and user input, a novel community engaged system thinking approach to controlling nutrient pollution will be developed. Key model performance metrics are concentrations of nitrogen species, BOD, and TSS in the effluent. To demonstrate the model’s utility, a sensitivity analysis was performed for case studies in Belize, estimating the impact on nutrient removal efficiency when changes are made to variables such as number of daily users, idle periods, tank number and volume, oxygen concentration and recirculation. For the systems considered here, strategies such as aeration, increased biodigester tank size, addition of aerobic and anoxic biodigesters, recirculation, addition of a carbon source, ion exchange media is predicted to decrease the effluent nitrogen concentration, and integration of vegetation for nutrient uptake both on land and in the nearshore environment. In a previous case, the addition of an aerator was predicted to decrease the effluent ammonium concentration by 13%, whereas increasing the biodigester tank size would only decrease the effluent ammonium concentration by ~7%. Model results are shared with system manufacturers and operators to prioritize possible modifications, thereby optimizing the use of finite resources, namely time and money, for costly trial-and-error improvement efforts.« less