of this Handbook
handbook is intended as a resource for communities interested
in conducting or already engaged in monitoring projects. The
handbook showcases the energy and ingenuity displayed by community
groups across the country incorporating monitoring into their
handbook is designed to help communities determine which monitoring
method is best for a particular campaign, and where to find
more information. By explaining how various types of monitoring
have been effectively used to support a range of campaigns and
community-based efforts, the handbook will help other communities
build on these experiences and choose the right monitoring tools.
this Handbook was produced
handbook was produced through the generous support of Coming
Clean. Coming Clean is a network of groups and individuals whose
common goal is to work together on chemical policies and campaigns
to protect public health and the environmental from exposures
to harmful and unstudied chemicals. Information about Coming
Clean can be found on the web at (http://www.comeclean.org/homecc.htm).
Clean serves as an incubator for these campaigns and strategies.
Coming Clean was formed in early January 2001 to take advantage
of the tremendous public education opportunity provided by the
PBS broadcast of Trade Secrets: A Moyers Report. Bill Moyers'
groundbreaking 90 minute documentary reported on how the chemical
industry has produced thousands of man-made chemicals that have
not been tested for their effect on the public's health and
safety. The campaign involved reaching out to and assisting
health and environmental groups around the country to organize
events around the Trade Secrets broadcast.
campaign's efforts led to over 120 public viewing events and
more than 650 news articles around the country on Trade Secrets
and associated local activities. Trade Secrets provided a tremendous
opportunity to focus national attention on the chemical industry
and the myriad ways that it works to keep its products on the
market and safe from public scrutiny of possible health effects.
across the United States and around the world are documenting
chemicals and their impacts on the health and environment of
the community. This community monitoring, which is often done
in the context of specific local campaigns, can be time and
resource intensive. Why go to this trouble?
ominous combination: a playground with a chemical or petroleum
facility in the background in Norco, Louisiana
millions of people in this country and hundreds of millions
around the world live in environments severely damaged by historical
and ongoing contamination of the soil, air, and water. These
contaminants adversely impact our health and accumulate in our
bodies, homes and workplaces, shortening the lives of community
members, and impairing childrenās health and development. Many
products sold in our stores pose a substantial risk to those
who use them, and there are inadequate safeguards to protect
consumers. There are literally thousands of lakes and rivers
where the fish are not safe to eat, and even fish caught in
the open ocean are contaminated by the deposition of pollutants
like mercury transported long distances from their source.
the face of these problems, communities have refused to remain
passive and wait for outsiders to assess and fix the problems.
They demand change and have mobilized to collect the information
necessary to convince decision-makers, manufacturers, and the
courts that change must occur now.
is Community Monitoring?
monitoring is a locally-based process of documenting chemicals
or their effects in a given community. There are a variety of
approaches to monitoring, each with strengths and weaknesses
that need to be assessed by community members considering a
monitoring project. This handbook presents case studies representing
six types of community monitoring, with some projects including
elements of more than one type. The six types of monitoring
Chemicals in the Environment - Direct measurement
of releases or ambient of concentrations of chemicals or pollutants
in the environment.
Chemicals Contained in Products or Food - Documentation
of known or suspected toxic chemical substances contained in
commercial products or of hazards associated with the use of
Body Burden - Measurement of chemicals or pollutants
in people's bodies.
Human Health - Measurement of human health indicators
or patterns of disease.
Regulatory Performance - Monitoring the performance
of both public and private organizations responsible for enforcing
regulation designed to protect health or the environment.
Ecological/Biological Health and Effects - Documenting
the impacts of chemical pollutants on living organisms.
of Hazardous Incidents - An acutely hazardous
incident poses an immediate threat to human or ecological health.
with partner groups around the country, we identified several
examples of the six types of community monitoring described
above. In selecting case studies, we attempted to geographically
cover the United States and demonstrate the diversity of methods
employed. Only a few of the hundreds of effective community
projects are profiled here. We primarily feature projects that
are designed and driven by local communities. A few of the highlighted
projects have a low level of community involvement, but were
included because they employ unique or interesting methods that
may be useful to other communities.
gathering readily available information about each project,
we interviewed contacts to collect additional and more in-depth
information. We attempted to collect the same information for
each case study, using the survey in Appendix A. Each case study
is presented in a similar format to make it easier to compare
and contrast different cases. Each case study begins with a
brief overview of the project to help guide the reader to areas
of most interest.
of Key Lessons
tools employed in the case studies range from fairly simple
and low-cost methods to those that are expensive or require
a significant investment in training and capacity-building.
Creating community maps illustrating the scope and patterns
of health problems in a community is a low-cost tool that doesnāt
require much training. It is also relatively inexpensive to
administer a community health survey to provide data for a mapping
project, but this can be very time consuming and may require
training as survey and questionnaire design can be a complicated
task. Other tools, such as monitoring toxins in breast milk,
are both expensive and highly technical, and require either
contracting or partnering with a scientific laboratory. Collecting
environmental samples with simple tools such as those used by
the "bucket brigades" does not require much technical
training or expertise, but does depend on highly effective community
organizing and coordination.
of the monitoring methods discussed in this book are so powerful
that they require additional consideration and sensitivity.
Testing humans for toxic chemicals (in blood, urine, breastmilk,
etc.) can provide the ultimate proof of chemical exposure, and
can be an extremely valuable tool for a community to use. However,
knowing one's own chemical body burden can be an emotionally
experience. Some participants in such monitoring studies have
felt disempowered or deeply disturbed when they learn about
their own chemical body burden, especially when that part of
their body burden made up of those chemicals known to take up
long term residence in the fatty substances in oneās body, because
there is very little known about how to remove such chemicals.
Counseling before and after testing helps participants cope
with the knowledge of these chemicals in their bodies. Confidentiality
in such cases is also important to avoid the results influencing
health insurance of participants or inappropriate use of the
data in legal battles.
will be disadvantages to any type of monitoring. Government
agencies and/or industry may seek to discredit community monitoring
data or try to contradict it with their own information. Researchers
or research institutions involved in a project may have goals
that differ from the community's goals. The challenges are many
but with proper planning, good partnerships, and a motivated
community, monitoring can be a powerful tool. Networking with
other communities that have overcome the many challenges involved
will greatly strengthen any monitoring effort. We strongly encourage
communities that are considering monitoring to learn directly
from groups who have performed similar studies in the past.
compiling this handbook we have drawn on the experience of activists,
community organizers, researchers, and policy advocates around
the country. Two recurring themes emerged as fundamental lessons
for community monitoring. First, that the most successful and
long-lived projects are those that have the greatest degree
of community involvement through all phases of the project.
Second, the most successful campaigns included monitoring as
a part of a broader strategy, including components like community
mobilization, education and capacity building, technical information
and research, legal strategies or media campaigns.
Newspaper Ad produced by Environmental Working group in the
campaign to get arsenic out of pressure-treated wood products.
following survey was used by participants in each of the projects
Study Name ___________________
1. What geographical area was the focus of your
2. What kind of monitoring tools or techniques
did you use?
3. What kinds of chemicals did you look
Did you carry out any preliminary research but consulting
Centers for Disease Control or other government agency information?
b. Are there particulat population(s) at
risk (age-stratified, racial / ethnic groups, class / income?)
c. Has there been government testing?
d. What is the generally accepted exposure
route for this chemical:
e. What are the health or environmental
effects / risks from exposure
Who conducted the monitoring? (community groups, independent
research labs, policy institutes, universities?)
5. What is the goal of monitoring effort/campaign
(immediate, long term)? (Are there corporate or government
SPECIFIC EFFORT / PROJECT
Background context of monitoring effort:
How did community become aware of problem?
b. How and where this movement began?
c. What are the concerns of the community ? How did community
become mobilized? Any particular triggers?
Methods employed (be as detailed as possible)
8. Research Process:
How did community design research / monitoring effort /
what part did community play in formulating research questions?
Research design? Data gathering? Analysis? Interpretation?
b. How did partner agency / organization (if any) design
research / monitoring effort / what part did agency / organization
play in formulating research questions? Research design?
Data gathering? Analysis? Interpretation? Dissemination?
9. What are the Data / Results / Findings
Is the resulting monitoring data available to public?
11. How have local residents responded?
12. How have local businesses responded?
13. Have there been legal / policy changes?
14. Is the community still mobilized, do
community organizations still exist, is there local activism?
15. Is the specific monitoring effort still
16. What are the other outcomes? (of study,
of mobilization, of legal suit or policy campaign)
If another community organization wanted to replicate this
project, how easy or hard is it? What sorts of commitments?
How much work was required to get data in terms of hours?
b. What kinds of factors affected data
collection? Example: environmental / outside factors that
affect data collection like precipitation, seasonality,
fish migrations, traffic congestion and rush hour commutes)
c. What kind of technical expertise did
you need to to design your project? To carry out data gathering?
To carry out data analysis? To interpret data?
d. How much did the project cost in terms
of equipment or testing samples?
e. What sorts of community knowledge contributed
to the monitoring effort?
In hindsight, what would have done differently? What do
you think were your keys to success? What advice to other
communities who want to do a similar study?
19. How difficult was it to translate technical
knowledge into lay language and concepts? What steps were
20. How difficult was it to translate study
results into health recommendations? What kinds of policy
recommendations emerged from your project? How was it done?
Who made the decisions?
Are there next steps or follow up work?
Contact information or web links.
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