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Community Engagement in Action

Projects that support our partners and impacted communities to address environmental health issues.

Fish Consumption Advisories 

Many freshwater fish in North Carolina are safe to eat, but due to high levels of pollutants in some waterbodies, some fish are not.

In North Carolina, we are usually concerned about Mercury, Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs), and Dioxins in our fish. Contamination often comes from industrial chemicals released into the air that eventually make their way back to lakes and rivers through rain, snow, and settling dust particles. Sometimes pollutants (like PFAS) are discharged directly into our waterways through permitted or non-permitted releases. Often times, the larger fish species that we catch and eat have the highest concentrations of pollutants in their bodies.

The CEC has been working to engage stakeholders and improve the communication of advisories and  guidelines for eating fish that protect human health. In efforts to make it clearer and easier for people to understand which fish are better for them and their families to eat, we have been actively collaborating with community engagement professionals at Duke and UNC to convene stakeholders around this issue, produce resources for educators and public health professionals, and disseminate best practices. The 2019 NC Fish Forum was held to explore innovative approaches by local governments with the goals to: increase understanding of the FCA process, foster greater collaboration among stakeholders, and identify opportunities to improve existing processes. To learn more about the Forum, read the white paper, and learn more about our ongoing work, click here.

In partnerships with the Duke University Superfund Center, we’ve been working on a one-stop-shop for communicating fish consumption advisories to vulnerable communities. This manual walks you through best practices when it comes to messaging, language, channels of communication, and dealing with pitfalls. 

PFAS Chemicals 

Emily Sutton presents findings from the Haw River Assembly’s work to measure PFAS.

Since 2017, the CEC and Center researchers have been working with communities along the Cape Fear River who are impacted by PFAS chemicals in drinking water. More recently, we have been learning how to address exposure through air and soil. We have used a variety of engagement approaches to support researchers and impacted communities on this issue. A lot of our work has been hosting, helping facilitate, and attending community meetings and events on the topic. In many cases, impacted community members want the ability to voice their questions and concerns directly to researchers-the CEC helps provide this. 

Although many PFAS chemicals are considered “emerging contaminants,” and don’t have as much toxicology or human health data as we’d like, there are good resources out there to learn more about them. Six Classes from the Green Science Policy Institute has some good information on where we might find PFAS in our daily lives, and what we can do about them. NIEHS (the federal agency that funds CHHE and our community engagement work) has information on all the PFAS research they are funding, including our colleagues in the Center for Environmental and Health Effects of PFAS, who have put together a PFAS resource hub for easy access to accurate, accessible information.

Toxic Metals

The CEC works closely with partners in Durham, NC to address toxic metals in the environment and in the home. Two Durham-based nonprofits have received CHHE Community Grants to address lead poisoning prevention and outreach.

In partnership with PEACH, the CEC has been working closely with community partners in Northeast Central Durham (NECD), facilitating meetings and workshops, hosting community-based events and dinners, and developing outreach and education materials.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, our engagement efforts have expanded to include COVID safety and healthy homes information and resources, including multiple outdoor events to provide resources and educational materials to community members.