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Investigating Environmental Health Risks (Developed by SEPUP)

Module #EHR-2
Investigating Environmental Health Risks (Developed by SEPUP)
In this module, students explore some basic concepts associated with environmental health risks.

In addition to the risks associated with familiar activities, they explore risks associated with clean up of the Superfund (toxic waste) sites. Through hands-on activities, students explore concepts necessary for understanding and comparing environmental health risks due to the presence of chemicals. The concepts include; sampling, testing for contaminants, parts per million, and acute vs. chronic toxicity.

They also investigate epidemiological methods that can be used to investigate risks from biological or chemical agents. The module ends with an activity in which students read about and apply their knowledge in evaluating evidence related to two environmental health risks.

Accommodates five classes, each with 8 groups of four students.
This module includes a Teacher's Guide
Module requires 16 SEPUP trays which are not included.

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Investigating Environmental Health Risks (Developed by SEPUP)

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This module has 8 activities which will require 10 to 16 ~50-minute class periods to complete.

1. Identifying Risk

As students understand that different risks can be compared on a quantitative basis - a fundamental concept in risk management - they also realize that personal factors play an important role in decisions regarding environmental health risks. Students consider personal actions they might take to reduce their exposure to environmental health risks in their lives.

2. Sampling

Students review the concept of environmental health risks and investigate one environmental risk: contaminated fish due to industrial activities on a lake. The process of sampling to collect information about a larger population, group, or area is introduced. Students draw samples from a set of colored fish that represent a population of fish. Students investigate the effect of sample size on accuracy of, and confidence in, inferences about the population from which the sample was drawn. They consider the use of data obtained by sampling to make predictions about environmental health risks.

3. Environmental Health Risks

Students are formally introduced to the concept of environmental health risks as they read a case study of a Super Fund site. Students use evidence to support a decision about exposure to this risk. Assessment of the ability to identify evidence and trade-offs is introduced.

4. Parts per Million

Students perform a serial dilution of copper chloride to develop the concept of parts per million (ppm) as a way of expressing the concentration of a solution. Copper chloride is then reacted with ammonia to demonstrate how chemical tests can reveal concentrations less than those visible to the human eye.

5. Acute Toxicity

Students investigate toxicity testing in animals as one way in which environmental health risks are studied. They collect and investigate data from a simulation of acute toxicity testing of a potentially toxic substance (PTS) in rats. A reading on the toxicity of substances in humans is provided.

6. Chronic Toxicity

Students investigate chronic toxicity by examining data from tests of chronic toxicity of PTS. The idea that tests on animals can be used to predict health effects in humans is discussed. A reading on the use of animal testing to determine acute and chronic toxicity of substances in humans is provided.

7. Testing for Pesticide Residues

Students perform a simulated test for pesticide residues in foods. They develop an understanding that all testing procedures are destructive (foods are generally crushed or pureed) and rely on statistical methods (portions of the food are sampled and tested). Therefore, they realize that no one has tested the actual food they eat. Students discuss limitations in testing procedures and interpretation of results. They also discuss how results are used to conduct risk assessments and how a variety of factors might influence decisions to eat a food.

8. Evaluating Risk

The class discusses the types of data scientists use to evaluate environmental health risks. Students then read about two environmental health risks: lead and MTBE. Applying the knowledge and skills developed throughout the module, they evaluate the relative significance of these health risks.

Scientific Concepts

  • Risks can result from everyday activities, recreational or other choices, occupational activities, diseases, natural hazards, or environmental factors.
  • Sampling is a process by which a small number of a population is selected as representative of the entire population.
  • Bio-accumulation may increase the risk from hazardous substances, such as PCBs, in the environment.
  • Gathering relevant evidence is essential for thoughtful inquiry and good decision making.
  • Making decisions about complex issues often involves trade-offs and evaluating issues requires an analysis of both risks (costs) and benefits.

Guides & Student Sheets

Our kits and modules provide you with everything you need so you can open, review, and teach the material confidently the next day.

  • Full downloadable Teacher Guide with background information, detailed instruction, example data and answers
  • Downloadable Student Sheets with age appropriate background information, full procedure(s), and analysis questions
  • All materials necessary to carry out the investigation
  • Safety Data Sheets

Module Components

  • 1 Teacher’s Guide with reproducible masters for Student Sheets
  • 40 Aluminum foil squares
  • 16 LAB-AIDS® measuring/mixing spatulas
  • 16 Droppers
  • 8 LAB-AIDS® Shaker Box
  • 8 Drop control bottles of Simulated Pesticide Test solution
  • 8 Drop control bottles of Copper Chloride solution, 100,000 ppm
  • 8 Drop control bottles of Ammonia solution, 5%, drop control, 30 ml
  • 8 Drop control bottles of "Water", empty, drop control, 30 ml btl
  • 8 Drop control bottles of Simulated Potentially Toxic Substance solution
  • 8 Drop control bottles of Simulated Rat Food (RF) solution
  • 8 Drop control bottles of Simulated Rat Weight Factor (RWF) solution
  • 2 9 oz plastic cups
  • 1 Set of paper fish
  • 1 Package of Black-eyed peas
  • 1 240 ml bottle of Potassium Iodide solution
  • 1 MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheets)

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