Community Engagement Core

Community-Engaged Research

CEC has promoted coproduction of scientific knowledge with community members, advocacy organizations, and regulators. 

Traffic and Air Pollution in NJ Port Communities.

For more than a decade, one of CEC’s priorities has been CEnR and community science with local partners using approaches including truck counts, air dispersion modeling, street-side measurements, and community air monitoring. Working with the Coalition for a Healthy Port and other organizations, CEC assisted with coordination of environmental health science activities in communities adjacent to the ports of Newark and Elizabeth, the largest seaport on the East Coast, and in Trenton and other industrialized areas of the state. 

In 2019, the city of Newark, NJ experienced a lead-in-water crisis, with ~23,800 potentially exposed households. CAD developed and distributed free water sampling kits to city residents and those with contemporaneous homes within the city (C. Doherty and B. Buckley). Results from the water sampling kits, coupled with the change in the “Lead and Copper Rule” (U.S. EPA regulation to control lead and copper in drinking water) helped to develop a sequential water sampling strategy for identifying the source of lead in drinking water (e.g., faucets, service line, water mains).


The East Trenton Collaborative (ETC), a local community group operating in the East Trenton neighborhood in Trenton, NJ, and NJ Future, a statewide advocacy organization requested a partnership for their initiative to help address lead (Pb) exposure within their marginalized community. They learned about our work identifying Pb in drinking water in Newark from the Newark Water Coalition and requested our help to “make East Trenton a great place to live, work, and play”. Lead by Brian Buckley, Ph.D., Director of CEED Chemical Analysis and Detection facility core, and Shereyl Snider, Community Organizer (ETC),  the project was launched in August of 2022  to address lead (Pb) exposure within East Trenton marginalized community.

In West Orange, NJ, CAD members partnered with Holy Trinity Episcopal Church (Rev. M. Hernández, member of CEED CAB) to provide environmental sampling and analysis for lead and other contaminants.

CAD is also partnering with S. Snider from the East Trenton Collaborative (ETC) and S. Aptman of NJ Future on a CEED pilot grant to develop intervention strategies based on lead source apportionment studies using samples collected by ETC volunteers.

PFAS and other Emerging Contaminants in Drinking Water. A proud, close-knit community and “company town” situated between two huge petrochemical facilities, Paulsboro, NJ has had a long history of other environmental insults and chemical contamination. In 2012, a train derailment in Paulsboro led to the catastrophic release of over 20,000 gallons of compressed vinyl chloride, similar in some ways to the recent disaster in East Palestine, Ohio. The town was evacuated, and CEED scientists and clinicians were consulted and 25 first responders and recovery workers were treated to address acute injuries and concerns about longterm cancer risks at the Rutgers EOHSI Clinical Center.

In 2018, CEED again became involved in the Paulsboro community after testing showed community members had the highest levels of perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA) ever recorded in drinking water due to contamination from nearby industrial sites.

The CEC facilitated the response to this crisis with a series of community-engaged studies, beginning with a study that linked PFNA exposure in Paulsboro to self-reported higher cholesterol levels (J. Graber, PI) A longitudinal follow-up study in collaboration with the NJ Department of Health then showed that blood levels of PFNA were slowly declining following treatment of the water, providing some reassurance to the community (C. Weisel and P. Georgopoulos, Co-PIs). 


Administrator: Kerry Butch


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