An introduction to the science of chemical exposure and environmental toxicology
This one-credit course focuses on toxic and hazardous substances in the environment, with particular emphasis on trace metals and organic compounds associated with construction materials and the urban/industrial environment. It examines issues such as urban air quality and indoor air pollution, the persistence of toxic chemicals in the environment, and the regulation and cleanup of toxic substances. Case study discussion focuses on sources and exposure to toxic substances in the built environment in general, and the New York City urban environment in particular.
By taking this course, students will...
- become familiar with concepts, literature and practices — both historical and current — relating to the sources, occurrence and regulation of toxics substances at local, regional, national, and global levels;
- develop an understanding of how scientific methods are used to construct knowledge of the toxic potential of natural and anthropogenic chemicals in the environment;
- become familiar with some of the major toxicological and pollution challenges facing the Earth today, and the important research which needs to be done to address these concerns;
- develop a deeper understanding of how human activities impact natural systems;
- gain a greater appreciation of how science can inform policies that will shape a sustainable future;
- become familiar with ecological justifications for sustainable practice in building and design.
By the end of this course, students will be able to...
- demonstrate understanding of the major factors that contribute to the toxicity of natural and human-manufactured substances;
- demonstrate understanding of the major factors that can influence how human health might be impacted by the presence of toxic substances in the environment;
- demonstrate understanding of global/national trends in air, water, soil, and sediment pollution;
- apply your knowledge to describe strategies for continued improvement in environmental quality;
- describe and debate how to design effective environmental monitoring field studies;
- demonstrate understanding of the major ideas of community exposure and comparative risk with respect to toxic substances;
- demonstrate understanding of the toxicological basis of "green" movements in design and manufacturing;
- describe and debate the strategies by which a more "toxic-free" future can actually be achieved, and describe the limits that should be placed on our expectations.
The calendar below is an example of how this Fall semester, non-studio course has been structured in the past. This one-credit short course meets for five sessions of three hours each: An introductory class, three lecture/seminar classes, and a final integrative class with graduate student presentations.
Course Intro; The Basics of Toxicology
Basic definitions in toxicology; toxic substances and routes of human exposure; dose dependency of toxic response; biological effects of hazardous substances; general classes of toxic substances in the urban environment.
Air and Water Pollution
FIRST READING REPORT DUE BEFORE 8AM ON THE MORNING OF CLASS
Measuring air quality; sources of atmospheric contamination; short- and long-range transport; flame-retardants and other chemicals/hazards of the built environment; chlorination byproducts and other contaminants in U.S. drinking waters; wastewater treatment.
Case study discussion will include air quality in urban and rural buildings, organochlorine pollution of the arctic, and the effects of 9/11 on human health in NYC.
Environmental Persistence of Toxic Substances: Soil and Sediment
SECOND READING REPORT DUE BEFORE 8AM ON THE MORNING OF CLASS
Soil and sediment sampling; environmental analysis; bio-magnification and ecological effects; natural and engineered destruction of toxic substances.
Case study discussion will include PCBs in the Hudson River, municipal solid waste incineration in New York City; dredging in New York waterways.
Risk Assessment and Regulation of Toxic Substances
THIRD READING REPORT DUE BEFORE 8AM ON THE MORNING OF CLASS
"Red Book" risk assessment; HPV Challenge; REACH; Stockholm Convention; Faroes Statement; Clean Air Act; Clean Water Act; Data Quality Act; California Proposition 65; RCRA; TSCA; Superfund and CERCLA; RAGS; brownfields; industrial ecology; "cradle-to- cradle" design.
Case study discussion will include an assessment of regulatory criteria for PCBs and disinfection byproducts.
Final Integrative Class; Graduate Student Presentations
FOURTH READING REPORT DUE BEFORE 8AM ON THE MORNING OF CLASS
FINAL PAPER/PROJECT/CASE STUDY DUE AT OR BEFORE THE BEGINNING OF CLASS
Graduates only: FINAL PRESENTATION PDF DUE BEFORE 8AM ON THE MORNING OF CLASS
Students do not have to purchase any reading material for this course. All required readings will be posted as PDFs or made otherwise accessible through the course website on Pratt's Learning Management System. Additional selected individual readings may be distributed in class.
Course readings will include book chapters, government reports, articles from peer-reviewed journals (e.g., Environmental Health Perspectives, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Science, Nature), mass-market science periodicals (e.g. Scientific American, National Geographic), and recent articles in the popular press. To comply with "Fair Use" copyright guidelines, students will need to authenticate with a Pratt userid and password to gain access to readings.
For some longer readings and web references, students are not expected to read every word, but should have a good grasp of the material and read thoroughly those parts that will assist in class discussions.
Students will be provided with a listing of web pages and optional references relating to each of the topics.
- Reading reports: (Graduates and undergraduates)
Beginning in the second week of the course, a reading report is due by 8am on the morning of class each week. While the content of each report will vary from week-to-week as described on the LMS, it is expected that all reports will demonstrate critical analysis of the assigned readings as well as a facility with the technical and stylistic expectations of college-level writing. Students are expected to upload each reading report to the designated area of the course LMS site.
- Participation: (Graduates and undergraduates)
All students are expected to be attentive and engaged during class discussions, and to come to class fully prepared to take part.
- Final case study: (Graduates only)
A 5–7 page research paper on a toxic substance of specific relevance to your field of study (see me for ideas). The research paper should incorporate themes from the class such as environmental presence and persistence, human exposure routes, industrial ecology and regulation. A bibliography is required, and must refer to at least one required course reading and at least three references from outside the required course reading list. A list of suggested references will be provided at the course website. The case study paper must demonstrate high-level understanding of the science of the topic/theme at hand, appropriate use of information resources, and a facility with the technical and stylistic expectations of college-level writing. Expectations and assessment guidelines will be posted on the course LMS site in advance of the due date.
- Final paper/project: (Undergraduates only)
- Option 1 (Paper): A 4–6 page well-researched paper inspired by and expanding on one of the themes of the course. Papers must include a bibliography and reference to at least one required course reading and at least three references from outside the required reading list. The paper must demonstrate high-level understanding of the science of the topic/theme at hand, appropriate use of information resources, and a facility with the technical and stylistic expectations of college-level writing. In order to demonstrate "high-level" understanding, the paper/project must go significantly beyond what was covered in the class lecture and the required reading. Expectations and assessment guidelines will be posted on the course LMS site in advance of the due date.
- Option 2 (Project): A creative work inspired by the course and informed by additional research relevant to course themes; this project must be accompanied by a 3-to-5 page gallery statement explicitly defining the connection between your work and the course. Projects will require a significant written component, however, in the form of a gallery statement and annotated research bibliography, and must draw from at least one required course reading and at least three references from outside the required reading list. The project must demonstrate high-level understanding of the science of the topic/theme at hand, appropriate use of information resources in the research that informs the project, and a facility with the technical and stylistic expectations of college-level writing. In order to demonstrate "high-level" understanding, the project must go significantly beyond what was covered in the class lecture and the required reading. Expectations and assessment guidelines will be posted on the course LMS site in advance of the due date.
- Final presentation: (Graduates only)
A 12–15 minute presentation of the final case study, delivered in class using PowerPoint/Keynote and/or appropriate visual aids, and accompanied by a question-and-answer period of up to 5 minutes. The presenters will be leading the class, and trying to convince their audience of the importance and relevance of their case study research; presenters are expected to prepare accordingly. All presentations will be given in class in Week 5. The presentation is meant to serve as practice and training for the skills necessary for a successful graduate capstone/thesis defense, and will therefore consider factors such as "organization," "clarity," and "style" in its assessment. Guidelines and expectations for presentations will be posted on the course LMS site in advance of the due date.
- Constructive critique: (Undergraduates only)
While undergraduates are not expected to present their own final projects, they are expected to be an attentive and thoughtful audience for the graduate students as they present their case study research on the last day of class. Undergraduates will be expected to fill out and turn in an evaluation survey of each graduate student presentation. This survey will ask for constructive feedback on clarity, manner of presentation, and other presentation skills. Surveys will be turned in TO ME, and I will forward the (anonymous) feedback to the graduate students after class ends.
Final course letter grades are based on 100%–90% for A-range, 89%–80% for B-range, etc.
There are NO opportunities to "make up" critiques and presentations.
There are NO opportunities for extra credit.
- Graduate students enrolled in EMS-731A / MSCI-536:
- 40% reading reports (4 @ 10% each)
- 25% Class participation
- 25% Final case study
- 10% Final presentation
- Undergraduate students enrolled in MSCI-436:
- 40% reading reports (4 @ 10% each)
- 25% Class participation
- 25% Final paper/project
- 10% Constructive critique of graduate student presentations
- Students must adhere to all Institute-wide policies listed in the Student Handbook under "Community Standards," which include policies on attendance, academic integrity, plagiarism, computer, and network use. Please see the Office of Student Affairs for policies and procedures for handling academic conduct issues.
- Pratt Institute is committed to full inclusion of all students. Those who require special accommodations for disabilities must obtain clearance from the Office of Disability Services at the beginning of the semester. Please make an appointment with the Disability Resource Center (DRC) to discuss these accommodations. The DRC is located in Room 117, Willoughby Hall.
- Students must check the course website on Pratt's Learning Management System to download readings, check guidelines for assignments, and check course announcements.
- Students must obtain a Pratt e-mail address and check this mailbox for official course communication.
- Late assignments will be reduced by one full grade (i.e., 10%) per each day late. No assignments will be accepted for credit more than 10 days late. Late assignments will only be accepted at the discretion of the instructor (i.e., in very unusual circumstances and/or arranged well in advance).
It is absolutely in your best interest to attend all class sessions. Absences and late arrivals/early departures will count against your participation grade.
There are no out-of-class assignment opportunites for presentation/critique days. If you are absent, you will receive zero participation credit for the session you miss.
For all absences other than missed presentation/critique days, if you are absent AND if you contact me within a day of your absence, I will provide you with an out-of-class assignment which will be due at the next class meeting. This assignment will require well-researched answers to a series of questions that parallel the lecture and class discussion. Answers will require explicit citation to required articles and supplementary reading, and may require additional research to demonstrate understanding. Timely and satisfactory completion of the out-of-class assignment will give you a chance to earn participation credit up to the full amount for the missed session. If you elect not to complete the out-of-class assignment, you will receive zero participation credit for the session you have missed.
As per Pratt Institute policy: I will only consider granting an incomplete if a student in otherwise good standing within the course can provide a compelling and exceptional reason for the request (e.g., documented unexpected illness, death in the immediate family, etc.) — in writing — before the final exam, and agrees to a contract for completion of all missing material. In no circumstance will incompletes stay on a transcript for more than one semester. An incomplete will automatically change to a grade of "F" if the deadlines and expectations in the contract are not followed. (Note that for graduate students, a failing grade may result in expulsion.)