New Methods for Analysis of Cumulative Risk in Urban Populations

EPA Grant Number: R834582
Title: New Methods for Analysis of Cumulative Risk in Urban Populations
Investigators: Scammell, Madeleine Kangsen , Ozonoff, David M.
Institution: Boston University
EPA Project Officer: Hahn, Intaek
Project Period: July 1, 2010 through June 30, 2014 (Extended to June 30, 2015)
Project Amount: $749,226
RFA: Understanding the Role of Nonchemical Stressors and Developing Analytic Methods for Cumulative Risk Assessments (2009) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Health Effects , Human Health Risk Assessment , Health


We propose using computer-assisted qualitative research methods and structural data analysis to characterize environmental burden on an individual and community level in a small but densely populated, ethnically and economically diverse city. Specific Aims include: 1) Use established qualitative and quantitative research techniques to collect, code and characterize information about chemical exposures of concern, social and economic concerns, behavioral risk factors for disease, self reported health outcomes and perceptions of environment and quality of life from residents abutting an urban designated port area, 2) Use already developed research software implementing Galois lattices (also called Formal Concept Analysis) to examine the hierarchical and structural relationships of quantitative and qualitative data elements, 3) Use the lattice as a technique for cumulative risk assessment by examining the relationships revealed by computation, 4) Share results of analysis with community members and public health officials and move refined and mature research software into the hands of public health practitioners to use as an additional and practical tool for epidemiologists and data analysts in local, state and federal health agencies.


We propose community-based participatory research in partnership between BU School of Public Health and the Chelsea Collaborative, a non-profit organization in the City of Chelsea. Adjacent to Boston, Chelsea is Massachusetts’ second most-densely populated municipality, with every census tract designated an environmental justice population by the Executive Office of Environmental Affairs. The partnership will hire a research coordinator to work at the Collaborative in Chelsea. Together we will collect qualitative and survey data of 500 residents in neighborhoods abutting an industrialized designated port area. We will use a new lattice software developed by Dr. Ozonoff to examine the relationships revealed by computation between combinations of variables (perceived concerns, environmental measures, covariates) and characteristics of the specific respondents who share them (duration of residence, health outcomes, demographics).

Expected Results:

We expect understand the capacity of the software to analyze quantitative and qualitative data for cumulative risk. We plan to share this tool with risk assessors and public health practitioners at no cost. We anticipate this tool will improve understanding of chemical and non-chemical stressors in Chelsea and their cumulative effects on the health of residents, with implications for public and environmental health decision making in Chelsea and beyond.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 17 publications for this project

Journal Articles:

Journal Articles have been submitted on this project: View all 3 journal articles for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

ambient air, water, watershed, marine, health effects, human health, sensitive populations, age, race, diet, ethnic groups, toxics, particulates, metals, solvents, sulfates, organics, sustainable development, restoration, public policy, observation, preferences, social science, epidemiology, mathematics, modeling, monitoring, analytical, Northeast, EPA Region 1, transportation, petroleum;

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2011 Progress Report
  • 2012 Progress Report
  • 2013 Progress Report
  • 2014
  • Final Report