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.

Course goals

By taking this course, students will...

Student learning objectives

By the end of this course, students will be able to...

Course calendar

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.

  • Week 1

    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.

  • Week 2

    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.

  • Week 3

    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.

  • Week 4

    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.

  • Week 5

    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

Textbooks, readings and materials

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.

Projects, papers, assignments

Assessment and grading

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.

Course policies

Absences

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.

Incompletes

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.)

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