Environmental Justice in Chester, PA
How Toxic Is It?
Risk Communication: Media Presentation Exercise
Skin Cancer Investigation: A Multi-Component Project
Sources of Potential Groundwater Contamination
The Crandon Mine Controversy
|A Scientific View of Risk
This background document looks at some everyday risks and compares them with perceived risks of contracting cancer and other diseases through environmental pollution. It also discusses some of the reasons why the general public and risk professionals frequently have differing views on risk.
Over the past few decades, Americans have become increasingly concerned about not only the management and disposal of waste but also the difficulty of balancing the benefits of a healthy environment with the economic costs of achieving those benefits. Conflict often arises over what disposal methods should be used, whether costs of certain disposal methods outweigh benefits (or vice versa), and who should bear the economic burden. Many factors must be considered when discussing the topic of waste management: Economic, political, environmental, personal, and ethical issues all play major roles in the decision-making process.
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The subject of toxicology can be quite complex and a basic understanding of its fundamental principles is important if citizens are to make learned decisions about the risks and choices inherent to environmental health issues.
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Groundwater hydrology is the study of the occurrence, movement, and quality of underground water. The field is interdisciplinary, drawing on the subjects of physics, geology, chemistry, soil science, and plant physiology.
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Polls show that the public ’s top environmental concern is toxic releases from active and abandoned hazardous waste sites. This background discusses some of the scientific factors considered in evaluating the environmental risks posed by these facilities.
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Environmental justice is a sensitive social issue as well as an environmental concern. The goal of this exercise is to increase participants’ awareness of environmental justice issues through discussion and role-playing.
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In this simulation, participants are "exposed" to various agents (confetti pieces) and then determine their exposure levels. A comparison between naturally occurring and synthetic pesticides is also made. This activity helps participants understand that chemicals may affect different people in different ways. Participants also realize that their perceptions of dangerous materials may not be realistic and that the news media may not provide all of the information needed to make healthy choices.
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Participants expose Wisconsin Fast Plants™ seeds to toxic solutions of increasing concentrations to develop a better understanding of toxicity. The activity covers a wide range of topics, including the scientific method and seed germination. Participants also sharpen writing, graphing, and metric measuring skills.
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Public perceptions of risks are often at odds with those of professional risk analysts, who frequently claim that the general public tends to exaggerate low-risk processes and activities and underrate more mundane, riskier activities. However, recent studies have shown that public perception of risk is not based as much on ignorance as it is on a broader notion of risk. People tend to fear risks that are uncontrollable and unobservable more than mundane and voluntary risks-even if the latter are demonstrably higher.
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Participants are given basic information about an environmental contamination scenario. Then, in groups, they prepare a brief broadcast or print news report from one of five possible viewpoints.
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The objective of this investigation is to compare the perceived and actual risks of getting skin cancer, while looking at ways to minimize these risks. Participants may have very little grasp of the severity of the threat of skin cancer or be unaware of the increase in the incidence of melanoma (the most deadly form of skin cancer) since the early 1900’s. At the same time, they are vulnerable to advertising and media emphasis on the social value of the suntan. This project is intended to provide a means of integrating environmental health science principles into the earth, life, or health science curriculum in a way that is practical and meaningful for participants susceptible to peer pressure and misinformation surrounding suntans, sunburn, and tanning booths.
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This activity is about the potential risks to groundwater supplies. You may wish to use it following a "parts per million" activity. Participants construct several models that demonstrate potential sources of contamination, including agricultural fields, oil spills, disposal lagoons, sinkholes, landfills, leaky barrels, and faulty septic systems. Each participant will construct one type of system, answer the assigned questions, and share his or her findings with the other members of the group.
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The intent of this project is to examine the issue of whether or not mining should be allowed at a zinc-copper sulfide deposit near Crandon, WI and what the long-term effects of mining would be on both the environment and on area residents. Because the mine’s goal is to obtain copper and zinc, the nature of these metals will be examined in terms of their chemical and physical properties, their common uses by humans, and their importance in the physiology of the human body.
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