Environmental Justice Workshop Focuses on Farmworker Exposure to Pesticides

June 13, 2012
Contact:

Eileen Thorsos, 919/613-8207, eileen.thorsos@duke.edu; or Tim Lucas, 919/613-8084, tdlucas@duke.edu

DURHAM, NC – North Carolina farmworkers’ exposure to hazardous agricultural pesticides will be the focus of a five-day workshop on environmental justice at Duke University on June 15-19.

Students and faculty from Johnson C. Smith University (JCSU), a historically black liberal arts college in Charlotte, will take part in the service-learning workshop along with secondary school teachers and community leaders from the Charlotte area. They’ll work side by side with Duke researchers and Triangle-area community leaders to explore issues related to pesticide exposure among farmworkers and to incorporate what they learn into locally relevant high-school and college-level teaching, research and community outreach programs for the Charlotte area.

The workshop is sponsored by the Duke Superfund Research Program, Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment,  and the JCSU Center for Applied Leadership and Community Development.

All costs for the participants are being covered by the Duke Superfund Research Program, through funding from the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) and the Nicholas School.

“Our goal is for these students, teachers and community leaders to take away a clearer understanding of the issues – and of the cutting-edge science on pesticide use, exposure and mitigation now emerging from the Superfund Research Program – and apply this knowledge in a meaningful, useful way in their classrooms and labs and in service to their community,” says Duke Faculty Director of Sustainability Charlotte Clark, who also directs the Research Translation Core for the Duke Superfund Research Program.

Participants in the inaugural workshop this month will work together throughout the coming year to implement the service-learning curricula and programs they develop.  They will return to Duke next summer to evaluate their initiatives’ effectiveness and mentor next year’s workshop participants.

Ultimately,Clark says, organizers hope the annual workshops will facilitate development of high school and college modules around issues of ecotoxicology and environmental justice, with an emphasis on those that include a service-learning component.  Further, the workshops hope to encourage more undergraduates at JCSU and other historically black colleges and universities to pursue advanced degrees and careers in environmental health and toxicology or other fields related to environmental justice.

In addition to a full schedule of hands-on labs and lectures, this year’s workshop includes a site visit to the controversial 150-acre Warren County PCB Landfill – a site created by the state in 1982 as a place to dispose PCB-contaminated soil and considered by many to be the birthplace of the environmental justice moment in the United States.

Participants will also visit the Wake County Regional Center’s health clinic for migrant farmworkers in Fuquay-Varina; Coon Rock Farm, a sustainable family farm near Hillsborough; and the Duke Campus Farm in Durham, where they will meet with Melinda Wiggins, director of the nonprofit Student Action for Farmworkers.

Heather Stapleton, associate professor of environmental chemistry at the Nicholas School and a principal investigator at the Duke Superfund Research Program,will deliver the workshop’s keynote address.

To learn more about the workshop go to the website