Community-based research proposed as model to make science more accessible


  • Randy Showstack


In Woburn, Mass., some community members were concerned that high rates of childhood leukemia in their city from 1969 to 1979 could be related to exposure to contaminated water from public water wells. When government officials did not take what some considered sufficient action against polluting companies, the community group, For a Cleaner Environment (FACE), contacted several professors at the Harvard University School of Public Health. The Harvard scientists assisted with conducting research and developing evidence that helped the community members secure an $8 million out-of-court settlement against the companies.

In Yellow Creek, Ky., residents were concerned that a tannery was poisoning the drinking water. They called upon the non-profit Highlander Research and Education Center of New Market, Tenn., for assistance in 1980. The center helped the Yellow Creek Concerned Citizens of Kentucky conduct health surveys and work with university researchers and scientists to determine the extent of contamination. To date, the results have included a safe water line for the community and an $11 million court decision, still under appeal, to help mitigate the problem.