Since 1980, Environmental Health Watch has played a unique role in Northeast Ohio, helping the public and policy-makers address critical health concerns related to our urban and industrial environment. The organization initially brought together concerned citizens and representatives from local health, environment and public interest organizations to focus on environmental justice issues. Working as volunteers, the group developed activities to educate the public about emerging concerns related to hazardous waste, chemical pollution and chemical accidents and their impact on human health and the environment.
Convinced that their work was responding to an important and growing need, the organization was incorporated in 1983 as the Council on Hazardous Materials and obtained initial funding from the George Gund and Cleveland foundations for staffed programming. The name was changed in 1990 to Environmental Health Watch. The EHW office is located in the Cleveland Environmental Center, the city’s first historic preservation/green office building.
For three years (1993-1995), EHW operated work crews that conducted lead hazard control work. Functioning as a small environmental contractor, we faced many of the challenges and frustrations of working within environmental protection and worker safety regulations. Having to deal with the practical implications of compliance with the various laws afforded us a unique perspective among environmental groups. We are no less adamant advocates for protection of human health and the environment, but we have a fuller appreciation of the resistance to these efforts and of legitimate objections to faulty regulation and poor regulatory administration.
Throughout our history, EHW has engaged in research projects in collaboration with academic researchers – Case School of Medicine; Case Department of Geology; John Carroll University, Department of Chemistry; Cleveland State University, Department of Urban Affairs; and, University of Cincinnati, Environmental Health Department. The experience of participating in the design and implementation of these projects has given us a grasp of concrete methodological issues in environmental and public health research. This helps us to better interpret research findings and more realistically appreciate their limitations.
Our program activities are in four functional areas:
- information and direct services,
- training and technical consulting,
- research and demonstration, and
- public awareness and policy development.
Our direct services and research activities are important sources of input which guide and ground our policy development and advocacy efforts. EHWs general strategy is to collaborate with other organizations to develop and test practical and effective model programs that can be adopted and sustained by the partner organizations. In 2011, EHW was nominated for the Healthy Homes Pioneer Award for its 30+ year contribution to the environmental community.