CURES Seminar: "Using Low-Cost Air Monitors in Detroit to Build Community"

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Date: October 24, 2019
Time: 12:30 p.m. - 1:30 p.m.
Location: Integrative Biosciences Center 1D
Category: Seminar

The Center for Urban Responses to Environmental Stressors (CURES) presents their Thursday afternoon seminar series on October 24, 2019 from 12:30 - 1:30 p.m. at the IBio Building in Seminar Room 1D, located at 6135 Woodward Ave.  The seminar is free and open to the entire university community.

The guest speaker will be Ms. Melissa Sargent, Green Living Resources Director of the Ecology Center, Co-Chair of the CURES Community Advisory Board, and a founding member of the Breathe Free Detroit Campaign.  She holds a Bachelors of Science degree from the Univeristy of Michigan's School of Natural Resources and Environment. 

Ms. Sargent has worked for over 15 years educating the public about avoidable household toxics such as pesticides, phthalates, hazardous flame retardants, BPA, triclosan, parabens, and more.  As an active member of the Breathe Free Detroit Campaign, she educated the residents and decision-makers about the environmental injustices of the polluting Detroit Incinerator and the harmful effects of particulate matter. Ms. Sargent has reached thousands through multiple media platforms including blogs, print newsletter, in-person workshops, and education fairs.  At the Ecology Center, Ms. Sargent works to evoke broader change through the Healthy Stuff Project which is designed to test and report on everyday household items for toxic chemicals. Healthy Stuff has shifted the market on flame retardants in children's car seats, phthalates in flooring, lead in toys, BPA in food cans and more.  Recently, Healthy Stuff began testing crumb rubber particles from outdoor playground surfaces for lead.  Ms. Sargent lives with her family on the near Eastside of Detroit, within the footprint of the recently closed Detroit incinerator and near the two U.S. Ecology hazardous waste treatment facilities.


Detroiters have higher rates of asthma as compared to residents in other cities in Michigan.  The Michigan Department of Community Health (now the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services) has called Detroit the "epicenter of asthma".  Both stationary hazardous land uses and mobile sources of emissions contribute to poor air quality in the city.  Common air pollutants can cause and activate asthma, cause an increase in the use of asthma medication, and increase asthma-related hospitalizations.  Particulate matter is one pollutant in particular known to harm the respiratory system.  During the Breathe Free Campaign, whose goal was to shut down the Detroit Incinerator, activists learned that particular matter emissions from the incinerator were only measured by State of Michigan regulators once every 12-18 months.  Residents wanted to know more about the particulate matter in the air in their neighborhood.  In response, and in following the models of other communities, such as Imperial Valley, California, the Ecology Center set up a network of low-cost air monitors in Detroit.  Since the shut down of the incinerator, the project has been expanded to neighborhoods in Southwest Detroit and neighborhoods surrounding the Fiat-Chrysler plant on the Eastside.  This fledgling project has the potential to build community through engagement, empower and educate residents (including school children), strengthen ties with the regulatory community, and influence decision-makers.






Christina Cowen




Academic Staff, Alumni, Community, Current Graduate Students, Current Undergraduate Students, Faculty, Prospective Students, Staff

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