North Charleston, SC
Training residents in community research and citizen science to develop a database of quantifiable harms from air pollution to motivate advocacy.
As a new marine container port terminal in Charleston County, South Carolina, brings discussions of increased air pollution, it has become vital to document the harms of this pollution. The Charleston Community Research to Action Board (CCRAB) has been gathering evidence to support community claims of poor air quality, but the harms and health impacts of that air quality on near-port communities have yet to be quantified. To support the communities of predominately Black residents and residents with low incomes experiencing disproportionate harm from port and highway activity, CCRAB documented and quantified the health impacts of air pollution. CCRAB partnered with Lowcountry Alliance for Model Communities and the Medical University of South Carolina on this project.
CCRAB initially planned to deploy a community survey but realized it needed to shift its strategy to be more community-centered and build trust with residents on the research process. Staff facilitated focus groups to begin the dialogue with residents in two neighborhoods to better understand the impacts of air pollution on them. These sessions included an interactive poster activity which gave participants the opportunity to shape the priorities for this research and future projects. From these focus groups, CCRAB gained important insight into the prevalence of impacts of poor air quality and the challenges of building trust and engaging with a community that has not always had positive experiences with researchers.
This community data project served as a pilot for future work of CCRAB, as it plans to train community members to use and access data on air quality, expand its research efforts into other neighborhoods, and bring in more community groups and expert organizations to help advocate for solutions to improve air quality. Its long-term goal is to expand the Charleston Community Air Monitoring Network so each neighborhood has the capacity and education to monitor its own air quality.