Communities Actively Researching Exposure Study

Communities Actively Researching Exposure Study (CARES) is community-based participatory research (CBPR) with the goal of understanding the effect of manganese exposure on children’s health. Researchers at the University of Cincinnati and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center are leading this research in collaboration with our partners at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, Marietta College, and Kent State University at East Liverpool and with the support of the communities in Marietta, Cambridge, and East Liverpool, Ohio.  The study has recently expanded into Southeast Side Chicago with partnership from University of Illinois-Chicago.  These studies are funded by the National Institutes of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS).


Chicago - East Side Overview

The East Side is one of 77 official community areas of Chicago, Illinois. It is located on the far southeast side of the city. It is surrounded by water and is located on the Calumet River’s eastern bank. Due to its location and access to water, steel mills were able to thrive in The Southeast Side of Chicago. It is home to thriving Calumet Beach, a United States Coast Guard station, and Calumet Yacht Club. It borders the state of Indiana and is located just 13 miles south of downtown Chicago.

Most of the neighborhood was built by the 1930s, with expansion to the south occurring in the 1940s and 1950s as new industries opened up along the Little Calumet River. The housing stock is comprised of Chicago-style brick bungalows, frame homes, and small apartment buildings while the southeast portion of this area was developed in the 1980’s with newer single-family homes.

The neighborhood has an impressive park along Lake Michigan which totals 181 acres. Calumet Park features two gymnasiums, a fitness center, Lake Shore Model Train exhibit, gymnastic center, sewing and upholstery studios, woodshop, and multi-purpose rooms. The park also has a beach, boat launch, artificial soccer turf, picnic groves, playground, baseball, football, and soccer fields. There is also a forest preserve known as Egger’s Grove two miles south of Calumet Park. Residents enjoy access to hiking/walking trails, picnic grounds and birdwatching.

The East Side is served by both Catholic and Chicago Public Schools. Gallistel Language Academy, Taylor Elementary, Sadlowski Elementary, Jane Addams Elementary and Washington Elementary are among the public elementary schools. Annunciata School is the neighborhood's Catholic, private elementary school. George Washington High School is the neighborhood public high school and St. Francis De Sales is the neighborhood's Catholic, private high school. There is also one institution of higher learning in the neighborhood. St. Augustine College offers five Bachelor’s Degrees programs and a wide range of Associate’s Degrees.

The East Side has been the City’s industrial soul for decades. Ships from all over the world navigate to the Port of Chicago with over 19 million tons of cargo every year, more than any other port on the Great Lakes. Construction of the railroads in the late 1800’s lured new residents, mostly of Serbian, Croatian, Slovenian descent to the area. Later other Europeans (Italians and Greeks) and Mexicans settled in the area. The river and railroads contributed to the success of the steel industry. The riverside docks allowed materials to be loaded and unloaded onto nearby railways. The mills were responsible for the strong economy and population explosion. They employed 40,000 workers. The Southeast side was economically dominated by steelmaker giants. U.S. Steel was located in the Bush neighborhood, Wisconsin Steel was located in the South Deering neighborhood, and Republic Steel/LTV Steel was located on the East Side. Families were proud of their work in the mills because the steel they produced was used to construct buildings in the city. Generations of family members found work in the mills.

In the late 1970s, Free Trade caused the collapse of the steel industry and its impact on East side residents was brutal. The rapid fall of the industry brought a decline to the economy and drove residents out of the neighborhood in search of employment. Much of the population that left was replaced with a Hispanic population that grew substantially between 1980 and 2000.

Although revitalization efforts have been made with the expansion of Ford Motor Company’s industrial campus into the former LTV Steel site, the area continues to struggle economically. The industries that replaced the steel mills along the Little Calumet River include ongoing waste disposal, scrap yards, and bulk cargo/storage facilities. Manufacturers continue to pollute the environment with their processing methods which include the crushing and blending products.

Residents of the East Side have always lived in the wake of industrial pollution. Everyone assumed the pollution would improve after the mills closed but headaches, nausea, asthma, heart disease, and cancer are still prevalent in the area. These illnesses are attributed to idling trains that emit toxic diesel exhaust fumes, trucks carrying materials without tarps allowing dust to radiate into the air, open-air storage of harmful byproducts, and the release of hazardous particulate matter into the air.

Community leaders Peggy Salazar, Olga Bautista, and Gina Ramirez along with East Side residents and the Southeast Environmental Task Force and Southeast Side Coalition to Ban Petcoke have been leading the fight to change policy and stop manufacturers from contaminating the environment. These women were triumphant in the fight to ban petcoke from the area. Manufacturers were forced to remove open-air piles of dirty petcoke from the area. Community leaders and residents continue to push back against dirty industry that no one wants in this area. East Siders are working tirelessly to change their legacy of industrial pollution in pursuit of a cleaner, healthier, and greener landscape.

CARES (2008-2013)

The University of Cincinnati partnered with communities to address the community-driven question: "Does air pollution affect our children's health?"

The original CARES involved children ages 7-9 living in the counties below.  The mother of the child must have resided in one of these counties while pregnant with the child in order to participate.

Marietta and East Liverpool, OH were selected due to their high levels of airborne metals, especially manganese.  Cambridge, OH was chosen as a comparison community. 

The original CARES used a variety of activities to test the children's reasoning skills, motor skills, and memory.  A parent also participated in a reasoning skills evaluation.  Blood, hair, and naturally shed teeth were collected from children. 

Click here for a summary of findings from CARES

CARES 2 (2017-present)

The second phase of the original CARES, called CARES 2, will continue the work of the initial research, so only those who participated in the original study may take part in CARES 2.

CARES 2 will involve several challenging, age-appropriate activities that will test youth’s verbal, special, and academic skills.  While the youth are participating in these activities, their parent(s) will complete a questionnaire.  The CARES 2 team will collect a small sample of hair, blood, saliva, and toenail from the youth.

Where will CARES 2 take place?
Marietta and Cambridge Study Areas:
Testing will occur at the Center for Children & Families at Marietta College.

East Liverpool Study Area:
Testing will occur at Kent State University, East Liverpool Campus.

Some participants may be invited to participate in additional testing that will occur at the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh and at Thomas Hall at Marietta College.

What is the benefit of participating in CARES 2?
The information we obtain could help children across the nation who may be exposed to air pollution by helping to shape national environmental and/or public health policy.

Participants will receive $125.  Additional compensation will be provided to those travelling to Pittsburgh.

How will my child’s information be kept private?
Every effort will be made to maintain the confidentiality of your study records.  The records will remain confidential unless disclosure is required by law.  To further protect your privacy, we have obtained a Certificate of Confidentiality from the National Institutes of Health.  The knowledge we gain from this study will be published in scientific journals; however, the children will not be identified and no personal information will be included.

Who can I contact for more information?
Marietta and Cambridge Study Coordinator: Jody (740) 376-4174
East Liverpool Study Coordinator: Delores (330) 382-7450
Principal Investigator, Dr. Erin Haynes, DrPH