Housing authorities and the EPA should work together to better inform residents about health threats, the report says.
Environmental groups and some financial analysts are warning the risk is growing for plastics and petrochemical manufacturers.
With the shutdown of a Hartford incinerator, Connecticut now has an opportunity to implement waste reforms that protect rather than oppress its communities of color.
Businesses across the U.S. have begun intensive COVID-19 disinfection regimens, exposing returning workers and consumers to some chemicals that are largely untested for human health, a development that's alarming health and environmental safety experts.
The gas well project, touted by the steelmaker as a way to a low-cost dedicated supply of natural gas to its Mon Valley steel mills, is opposed by some community and environmental organizations because of safety and health concerns.
"From Black woman to Black woman, is it a good idea for me to participate in these studies?"
I was not expecting this call or question. We had met a few days earlier when I recruited her for a reproductive health study.
Doctor drawing blood from a patient as part of the Tuskegee Syphilis Study. (Credit: National Archives)<p>The academic, research, and medical fields are stained with mistrust. Our history points to numerous examples of maltreatment based on race and ethnicity.</p> <p>One of the most famous examples is the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, in which poor, Black men were unknowingly enrolled into a clinical study to examine the natural progression of untreated syphilis. Over the course of 40 years, men were never informed of their syphilis diagnosis nor treated for the disease, even after penicillin was approved as a treatment for syphilis. </p> <p>More recently, researchers at the Arizona State University collected DNA samples from members of the <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/22/us/22dna.html" target="_blank">Havasupai Tribe</a> to study Type 2 Diabetes, but used the samples for several other genetic studies without consent. </p> <p>The ethical failures of these studies and others have shaped current biomedical research practices, however, the legacy of mistrust still plagues research today. </p> <p>For the Black women with whom I work, mistrust is likely informed by a long-standing history of both racism and sexism. Throughout decades of slavery, my ancestors were repeatedly violated, enduring forced labor, rape, and medical experimentation based on their position as being both Black and female. </p> <p>Notably, J. Marion Sims, an American physician still hailed as the "father of modern gynecology," perfected his surgical techniques by performing procedures on enslaved Black women without anesthesia. These horrific actions were followed by forced sterilizations as birth control for poor Black women in the 1900s, and by the harvesting and use of cells from <a href="https://www.npr.org/2010/02/02/123232331/henrietta-lacks-a-donors-immortal-legacy" target="_blank">Henrietta Lacks</a>, a young Black woman dying of cervical cancer, without her consent. </p> <p>Even now, Black women continue to experience inequity in healthcare settings, as evidenced by the <a href="https://www.statnews.com/2018/01/11/racism-maternal-health-erica-garner/" target="_blank">high maternal mortality rates</a> among Black women in the U.S. These historical abuses coupled with current injustices may affect the daily lives of Black women and influence how they perceive research. </p>
March for Science in Washington, DC, in 2017. (Credit: Adam Fagen/flickr)
Toxicology Research at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (Credit: U.S. FDA)<p>I have seen first-hand how incorporating diverse perspectives into research can be extremely successful. Sometimes this means talking about a participant's natural hair journey, because I, too, gave up chemical hair perms several years ago. Oftentimes it means a big hug upon completion of data collection, and most recently, it meant a participant inquiring about my academic journey and expressing pride in seeing a Black woman working in my position.</p><p>My anecdotes are not unique. In a <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6984439/" target="_blank">focus group among Black men</a>, most agreed that they were more willing to participate in the study because Black men recruited them. There are similar trends in medical literature, with Black and Brown patients expressing <a href="https://www.miamitimesonline.com/faith_family/minorities-want-doctors-who-look-like-them/article_532ebbc6-eab2-11e9-8e21-f7f46cb8cd01.html" target="_blank">more comfort</a> with healthcare providers of shared racial/ethnic backgrounds. The common thread in all of these scenarios is trust.</p><p>It is not enough for funders and institutions to publish a "diversity statement" and express their intentions for inclusion. Far more important is the inclusion of Black and Brown investigators, staff, and students. I am not saying that you need a Black recruiter in order to recruit Black participants. I am advocating, however, for the inclusion of people of color in every phase of research. </p><p>But it's not just me saying this. This call to action is one that has been spoken for decades and serves as a <a href="https://www.nrdc.org/sites/default/files/ej-principles.pdf" target="_blank">fundamental principle</a> of the Environmental Justice movement to involve people of color "as equal partners in every level of decision making." </p><p>Much like <a href="https://www.atsjournals.org/doi/full/10.1513/AnnalsATS.201601-054PS?url_ver=Z39.88-2003&rfr_id=ori:rid:crossref.org&rfr_dat=cr_pub%20%200pubmed" target="_blank">community partners</a> in community-based participatory research who can offer insights and highlight challenges to improve their own community's health, investigators, staff, and students of color can add a wealth of ideas and help facilitate important conversations with participants from diverse backgrounds, resulting in a more robust research environment. </p><p>Now more than ever, as scientists rapidly develop and test COVID-19 therapies and potential vaccines, the inclusion of Black and Brown folks in research is critically important. As public health leaders tasked with improving health for all people, it is our responsibility to include the voices of all people, particularly those who have been marginalized. If not, millions of research dollars could miss the mark on health interventions, prevention campaigns, and personalized medicine by missing people of color. </p> <p>Reflecting on that phone call on a chilly, Sunday afternoon, I am glad to be on the other side of the line. I am thankful to be conducting work that is relevant to, and important, for Black women. </p> <p>After all, public health is all about people, and the health of millions depends on our action.</p><em>"We honor the dream by doing the work."</em> – Cleo Wade
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