CHEM 331 is designed to provide a meaningful community-based learning experience for students interested in applying chemistry to directly serve the needs of residents in the Northeast Neighborhood. The course was developed by the Department of Chemistry/Biochemistry and the Center for Social Concerns, in collaboration with Memorial Hospital, the City of South Bend, and Greentree Environmental, Inc.

Participating students will join with community partners in helping to identify neighborhood homes that have unsafe levels of lead contamination. In the one-credit course, each student will:

a) learn about the health effects of lead poisoning,
b) help to educate local homeowners, landlords, and residents of the risks associated with lead contamination,
c) join trained professionals in using well-established protocols to collect paint, dust, and soil samples from area homes,
d) assess and contrast competing analytical techniques for sensitively measuring lead levels,
e) inform affected occupants of ways to protect their families from further lead exposure,
f) explore first-hand how lead contamination affects individuals, families, communities, and society,
g) reflect on the experience of applying one s professional skills to the betterment of society.

The laboratory component of this project, i.e., testing lead levels in samples collected from area homes, will be integrated into Analytical Chemistry Laboratory (CHEM 333L).

Why Focus on Lead Testing?
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 4.4% of all children in America between the ages of 1 and 5 have high levels of lead in their blood. Lead is particularly dangerous to children, because it can induce damage to the brain and nervous system, behavior and learning problems, slowed growth, hearing problems, and headaches. While lead poisoning crosses all socioeconomic, geographic, and racial boundaries, the burden of this disease falls disproportionately on low-income families and families of color. In the U.S., children from poor families are eight times more likely to be poisoned than those from higher income families. African-American children are five times more likely to be poisoned than white children. About 22% of African-American children living in pre-1946 housing are lead poisoned, compared with 5.6% of White children and 13% of Mexican children living in older homes. Lead poisoning research suggests that the primary sources of lead exposure for most children are:

  • deteriorating lead-based paint, <> lead contaminated dust, and <> lead contaminated residential soil.

Lead poisoning is entirely preventable if one identifies and reduces the sources of lead in a child’s environment. With this mission in mind, we set forth

Learning Goals:
CHEM 331 is designed to provide a rich, multifaceted experience for students. It is expected that students will grow with respect to their:

  • Professional expertise application of chemical principles and skills to solve problems
  • Social Concerns Better understand the needs and concerns of members/groups of our society and identify root causes of societal problems
  • Leadership Recognizing, nurturing, and harnessing the gifts that individuals bring to a team
  • Civic engagement make commitments toward bettering the world through action and affecting institutional change

It is difficult, if not impossible, to assess how a student progresses in each of these domains. However, there will be a number of points during the course where we will try to gain a glimpse of where you are along the journey. This will guide us in directing/redirecting the course and in assigning letter grades for awarding individual academic credit.

Grading Scheme:
The following input will be used in assessing each student s letter grade for the course:

  • Participation in class discussions
  • Professionalism in conducting risk-surveys and home risk-assessments
  • Lab report on lead levels in a tested home (written for the non-expert resident)
  • Journal reflections on experiences in community
  • Mock newspaper article to inform public of health risks associated with lead exposure
  • Final Paper addressing strategies for reducing health risks in our community

Class meets from 7:00-7:50 in DBRT 244 on Tuesday evenings (except weeks with italics)

Week, Date, Topic/Activity, Student Assignment

1. Aug. 27, Introduction to Course Health Risks of Lead Exposure Selected Readings
2. Sept. 3, Contrast Analytical Laboratory Techniques for measuring lead. Demonstation of XRF instrument Selected Readings
Sept. 9, Attend Northeast Neighborhood Meeting
3. Sept. 10, Sources of Lead in the Home Environment (Lead 101) Read brochures in course packet
4. What is involved in performing a Risk Assessment? Role Play for Neighborhood Survey Write a mock newspaper article on lead in the home environment.
5. Sept. 24, Survey Northeast neighborhood Visit area homes6. Oct. 2, Help support Information Night at Robinson Community Learning Center Journal Entries
7. Oct. 8, Reflection on Community Interactions Questions for Reflection
8. Oct. 15 , What s involved in lead stabilization? Low-cost interventions for creating a lead-safe home environment Select Readings
9. Oct. 29 , Student Teams join Greentree staff on Risk Assessments of Area Homes. Field samples are digested in CHEM 333L lab Visit targeted homes Journal Entries
10. Nov. 5, Students test their field samples outside of regularly scheduled CHEM 333L lab Technical Lab reports
11. Nov. 12, Compare lab results and prepare reports
12. Nov. 19, Revisit neighborhood homes or RCLC to share lab results and discuss strategies for making homes lead-safe Write lab report that can be understood by a home owner
13. Nov. 26, Thanksgiving Reflection on Student Experiences in Community Questions for Reflection
14. Dec. 3, Discuss societal impact of lead poisoning Relevance of Catholic Social Teaching Select Readings
15. Dec. 10, Discuss EPA, HUD, and OSHA policies regarding lead. Legal and ethical implications. Submit Final Paper