Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions

Understanding and Controlling Urban Soil Lead Contamination and Its Impact on Public Health

Date and Time
Thursday, May 27, 2021 - 12 p.m. to 1 p.m.


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Please join us via Zoom to hear Dr. Katrina Korfmacher talk about coalition work in Rochester, NY that led to meaningful policy change and became a national model for reducing childhood lead (Pb) poisoning rates.

In 2000, the City of Rochester, NY had ten times the national rate of childhood lead poisoning. A coalition of educators, government staff, lawyers, community leaders, health professionals, and researchers identified the need for ‘systems change’ at many levels. A cornerstone of these changes was a local lead law mandating visual plus dust wipe inspection of all pre-1978 rental units. Since 2006, the City has conducted over 180,000 inspections and childhood lead poisoning rates have declined 2.4 times faster than elsewhere in New York. This law and related community supports have been widely recognized as a national model, despite the fact that the final policy was weakened from initial drafts, which included stronger provisions for soil testing and porch dust sampling. This presentation will reflect on the role of scientific expertise, research translation, and multiple sources of knowledge in the development, passage, and adaptation of Rochester’s lead law, as well as implications for future local, state, and national policy.
This talk is occurring as part of a project on “Understanding and Controlling Urban Soil Lead Contamination and Its Impact on Public Health” supported by the Nicholas Institute’s Catalyst Program. The Catalyst Program aims build on the Nicholas Institute’s mission by increasing engagement with Duke faculty to incubate and advance new partnerships, enhance policy-relevant knowledge, and create innovative policy solutions based on new creative synergies.


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Katrina Smith Korfmacher is Professor of Environmental Medicine and Director of Community Engagement for the Environmental Health Sciences Center (EHSC) at the University of Rochester. She is a policy scientist who holds a MS in Water Quality Management and PhD in Environmental Studies from Duke University. Dr. Korfmacher has worked with and studied community partnerships related to childhood lead poisoning prevention, healthy homes, air quality, land use, and other environmental justice issues for 20 years. She is the author of Bridging Silos: Collaborating for Environmental Health and Justice in Urban Communities (MIT Press, 2019), which explores how to promote local problem solving through community partnerships. Since June 2020, she has coordinated the Monroe County Wastewater Coronavirus Surveillance Working Group and studied application of this technology in colleges and universities nationwide.

For more information on her work, please see the following publications and websites: