Wednesday, April 21, 2021, from 12:30 - 1:30 pm on Zoom.
Getting the Lead (Pb) Out: Health and Economic Benefits of Reducing Lead Exposure in Sub-Saharan Africa
One chemical pollutant that poses multiple health risks is lead (Pb). Lead is recognized as having favorable material properties for use in manufacturing that include electrical conductivity, low melting point, workability, and a vibrant color. Accordingly, it has found its way into numerous occupational workplaces and household products. Though the toxic impacts of lead are widely recognized as a major problem in many U.S. communities, it disproportionately affects the health and well-being of those living in low- and middle-income countries. Over the past several years our team has worked with local partners in Madagascar to remediate over 1,000 locally made hand pumps of lead components. We have measured water quality before and after the remediation, modeled and then directly measured children blood lead levels (BLLs) before and after the pump remediation, and conducted social marketing research to create a program to change the behavior of local technicians who manufacture and repair these pumps. We have also determined the health and economic benefits associated with modifying existing practices. Professor Mihelcic’s talk will explain all the components of this project. It is a fascinating journey that includes an interdisciplinary team of engineers, public health officials, social marketers, a local water provider, pump owners, and local pump manufacturers. Importantly, it demonstrates how the formation of partnerships between public, private, and civil society entities, as suggested by UN Sustainable Development Goal 17, can realize important local economic and health benefits in low and middle income countries.
Dr. James R. Mihelcic is the Samuel L. and Julia M. Flom Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of South Florida (Tampa). Dr. Mihelcic is internationally recognized for education and research contributions in the areas of advancing principles of sustainable development into engineering teaching, research, and practice; sustainable water and nutrient management; and delivery of water, sanitation, and hygiene (WaSH) in low and middle income countries. He is an Associate Editor for two ACS journals (Environmental Science & Technology and Environmental Science & Technology Letters), a Fellow with the Water Environment Federation (WEF) and Association of Environmental Engineering and Science Professors (AEESP), and past president of the AEESP. He has also served two terms as a member of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Chartered Science Advisory Board (SAB). Dr. Mihelcic has authored over 200 published journal articles, book chapters, conference proceedings, and peer reviewed reports. He is also lead author for several engineering textbooks that include: Field Guide in Environmental Engineering for Development Workers: Water, Sanitation, Indoor Air and Environmental Engineering: Fundamentals, Sustainability, Design.