The Healthy Materials Lab works in Warren, OH in collaboration with The Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership (TNP), The Robins Project and the Arts Council. Our work with TNP began in Warren in 2012 with programming to improve the quality of life in a city that has suffered from abandonment and disinvestment since the loss of the steel industry in the late 1970’s. A primary focus for TNP is in managing the hundreds of vacant properties throughout the city through appraisal, renovation, demolition and sales. While TNP and other homeowners in Warren have been successful at keeping renovation costs low and housing affordable, they have not placed an emphasis on human health. The Healthy Materials Lab has partnered with TNP to introduce healthier building practices.
HML’s work includes a written case study, a video, a soil study and development of an online mapping tool, and community information sessions including one that explored the community benefits of composting. The case study consists of an observation of the current best practices in demolition and renovation, research on historic materials used for building throughout the 20th century in Warren and the known health impacts of exposure to these materials, and a recommended list of better materials and practices. The soil study included collecting samples of soil adjacent to historic homes and in community gardens in the city’s downtown Garden District. Samples were sent to partners at the Urban Soil Institute for testing. Results were then shared with TNP and a conversation began about strengthening community composting efforts to increase nutrients in soil and combat the effects of the chemicals and metals left behind by historic industry and building materials.