Metal Redlining

Sarah Fortner,
(General Project Information)

Jennifer Latimer,
(Navigating Community Health)

Melisa Diaz

About the Metal Redlining Network (est. 2019)


Metal pollution research is challenging to enter into because it requires an understanding of geochemistry, human health and privacy and engaging in systems change requires work with vulnerable neighborhoods, community development offices, and policymakers. For this reason, our central goal is to build a cross-city network that empowers research, education, and policy advocacy that advances health equity. To begin, we collaborate around a shared research question is: Has redlining resulted in an unjust soil metal burden? Redlining is the systemic disinvestment in communities based on race, class, or other factors where marginalized communities face the brunt of inequities. We seek to answer our research question by examining metal pollution associated with the "Residential security zones" established by the Home Owner Loan Corporation prior to the 1950s. Specifically neighborhoods targeted for disinvestment and high risk loans often primarily based on race were redlined. Community empowerment, informed development, and equitable and just planning and policies are critical to breaking the cycle of disinvestment. Earth and environmental scientists have the opportunity to better inform community development and policy decision making. Our research is intentional in this alignment as is our commitment to working across cities to better understand how scientists might engage with students and the community to advance equity, and justice outcomes. Collaboration helps each team member better navigate privacy, and trust issues that come up while working on sensitive health and community development issues.

The Metal Redlining Network systems approach to engaging environmental justice: education, research, and community outcomes We are motivated by a desire to advance environmental justice using a systems approach to coproduce knowledge across research, education, and community capacity building efforts. The challenge of metal pollution calls for deeper integration of knowledge across expertise that informs both short term decisions and radical, transformative change needed to address a multi-decadal injustice. We seek to share strategies with each other that help us translate metal research into broader outcomes of building literacy and informing community change. We approach this with a flexible mindset, understanding that we each bring our own personal goals and contexts for participation that inform our individual choices with student and community engagement. We will update the Metal Redlining Network website with our research and examples of how we engage student and broader audiences.

Note: We do not accept samples for testing, but rather engage with the local communities we live in. If you are seeking health information contact your local health department.


Chambers, L.G., Chin, Y.P., Filippelli, G.M., Gardner, C.B., Herndon, E.M., Long, D.T., Lyons, W.B., Macpherson, G.L., McElmurry, S.P., McLean, C.E. and Moore, J., 2016. Developing the scientific framework for urban geochemistry. Applied Geochemistry, 67, pp.1-20.

Jagannathan, K., Arnott, J. C., Wyborn, C., Klenk, N., Mach, K. J., Moss, R. H., & Sjostrom, K. D. (2020). Great expectations? Reconciling the aspiration, outcome, and possibility of co-production. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, 42, 22-29.

OSU, Extension Service, Should I worry about heavy metals in my garden soils?

NSF, 2018, Sustainable Urban Systems: Articulating a Long-Term Convergence Research Agenda.

Nelson, R. K., Winling, L. Marciano, R., Connolly, N. et al., "Mapping Inequality, Redlining in New Deal America," American Panorama, ed.

Mock and Caps, 2019, City Lab, Who Will Presidential Candidates' Redlining Plans Actually Benefit?

Muller, C., Sampson, R. J., & Winter, A. S. (2018), The social causes and consequences of lead exposure. Annual Review of Sociology

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Approaches to accomplishing our research goal and local synergies

  1. Situating metal pollution research in redlining, i.e. the legacy of unjust policies and practices.
  2. Conducting research across cities to deepen geochemical understanding of fluxes and fates across settings
  3. Sharing expertise within our network to navigate research & education challenges in and with communities (e.g. navigating privacy, preparing students for critical engagement).
  4. Meeting several times each semester to check in on goals, outcomes, and progress
  5. Reflecting on opportunities to inform decisions and policy
  6. Encouraging evolution to fit our settings including campus and local partnering activities

Topical Network


  • Kenneth Brown, DePauw University
  • Melisa Diaz, CU-Boulder
  • Cynthia Fadem, formerly Earlham College
  • Sarah Fortner, Carleton College
  • Jennifer Latimer, Indiana State University
  • Sue Ebanks, Savannah State University
  • Kim Landsbergen, Antioch College
  • Carmen Nezat, Eastern Washington University
  • Hannah Scherer, Virginia Tech
  • Annette Trierweiler, Baldwin Wallace University

Metal Redlining Leadership Workspace

Regional Implementations

Wittenberg has developed a local alliance, the Redlining Education and Change Coalition to build curricular and community capacity to tackle the unjust legacy of redlining.

Redlining Education and Change Coalition in Springfield, Ohio

Network Goals

  1. Advancing environmental justice research through a cross-city collaboration
  2. Advancing student environmental justice expertise and frontline community-desired outcomes
  3. Sharing collaborative strategies with broader audiences to advance knowledge coproduction

Research Sites

We are conducting research in the following cities: 1) Spokane, Washington, 2) Indianapolis, Indiana, 3) Terre Haute, Indiana, 4) Richmond, Indiana, 5) Dayton, Ohio, 6) Springfield, Ohio, 7) Columbus, Ohio, 8) Savannah, Georgia, 9) St. Louis, Missouri.

Network Successes

  • We have advised a ThinkTV documentary Redlining: Mapping Inequality in Dayton and Springfield. This airs on February 24, 2022.
  • Melisa Diaz has accepted a tenure track faculty position in the Geography Department at the University of Colorado-Boulder
  • We have an article in press: Fortner, S.K., Suffoleta, M.*, Vogt, L*., Brown, A., Diaz, M. 2021. An undergraduate course-based soil lead research and partnering model to address systemic racism and the enduring harms of redlining. Environmental Justice, Special Issue: 6th University of Maryland Environmental Justice and Health Disparities Symposium.
  • We have submitted a book chapter: Fortner, S.K., Scherer, H.H., Diaz, M.A., Brown, K.L., Fadem, C.M., Nezat, C.A., Latimer, J.C., Ebanks, S.C., and Landsbergen, K., (submitted). The Metal Redlining Network: Uniting Research, Education, and Community.The Handbook of Broader Impacts, eds. Van Egeren, L. and Renoe, S.
  • We have presented our model & led faculty development on interdisciplinary environmental justice collaborations at the University of Washington Tacoma, University of Iowa, Villanova University
  • 12 Wittenberg students have completed Springfield, Ohio soil testing (Fall 2019) and have engaged more than 200 people in lead health education through canvassing, sampling, sharing results with residents, and hosting a lead empowerment event in the Springfield Promise Neighborhood. Here is the project website with products created for students, community decision-makers, & lead health advocacy.
  • Rachel Corsello wrote Community Engagement Concerning Soil Lead Levels" The International Undergraduate Journal For Service-Learning, Leadership, and Social Change: Vol. 9: Iss. 2, p. 30-38.
  • Antioch students have completed Dayton, Ohio soil testing and have engaged with public audiences through canvassing, testing, and sharing results with residents.
  • Earlham students have completed sampling in Richmond exploring more detailed housing conditions for related research.
  • Sue Ebanks plans to collaborate with other colleagues at the Earth Educator's Rendezvous, 2020 on a session on the power of faculty mentoring ecosystems.
  • Hannah Scherer has published research on the value of co-teaching and a network approach to achieving outcomes. See: Scherer, H. H., O'Rourke, M., Seman-Varner, R., & Ziegler, P. (2020). Coteaching in Higher Education. Journal of Effective Teaching in Higher Education, 3(1), 15-29.
  • Carmen Nezat has published research on metals from municipal and stormwater sources. See: Riley, C. L., & Nezat, C. A. (2020). Controls on major ion chemistry and metals in a suburban pond fed by municipal water and treated stormwater. Applied Geochemistry, 104576.
  • Our network engages in local food access and victory garden efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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