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Dr. Sylvia Hood Washington      

Chief Environmental Research Scientist at Environmental Health Research Associates, LLC.

A highly accomplished and successful environmental epidemiologist, environmental engineer and environmental historian and clinician with over 30 years of research experience working on the impact of industrial pollution on human health. Successfully implemented Research Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, Superfund and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) regulations for effluents and solid waste derived from power generation sources (space and terrestrial systems) for both private industry and NASA.

She is a published author (Packing Them In: An Archaeology of Environmental Racism in Chicago, 1865-1954 (2005) and Echoes from the Poisoned Well: Global Memories of Environmental Injustice (2006)) and the creator and editor in chief of the first international environmental health disparities journal, Environmental Justice (Mary Ann Liebert Publishers, Inc.). She was the first African American historian to study and publish a formal history of environmental injustices in the United States in 2006 (Rowman and Littlefield Publishers). Dr. Washington was the first African American to receive a PhD in the History of Science, Technology, Environment and Medicine from Case Western Reserve University in 2000 and the first African American woman to ever receive a Master of Science in Systems and Control Engineering from Case Institute of Technology (1987). She was also the first black woman to become a journeyman engineer at NASA, Region V where she worked on the public and environmental health risks of low earth orbit missions after the 1987 Challenger Disaster. Dr. Washington consults regularly with environmental law firms as well as grass roots community groups to help them understand the history of industrial operations, transportation systems and municipal planning’s impact on human health and environmental health disparities.

Dr. Washington personally secured over $250K grant to create a national environmental justice oral history film and educational literacy project for black Catholics that was funded by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops Environmental Justice Office (2002-2006) for the Knights of Peter Claver Inc. The grant was executed with the support of Chicago Historical Society, DePaul University, Northwestern University, and Notre Dame University and the Illinois Humanities Council.

In 2006, Dr. Washington successfully submitted a research proposal to the National Science Foundation to do a qualitative epidemiology study of historical environmental health disparities in African American municipalities in Chicago’s Metropolitan Water District. She was the NSF Principal Investigator for this study from 2006-2010.

In November 2010 she was elected Co-Chair of the Illinois EPA’s Environmental Justice Advisory Board. The Board is comprised of leaders from Environmental Justice groups, private industry, NGOs, law firms and municipal officials in Illinois. In 2012 she was appointed by Governor Patrick Quinn to sit on the first Environmental Justice Commission for the state of Illinois. Dr. Washington became a Climate Reality Leader in 2015.

Her scholarly interests are focused on environmental epidemiology, biostatistics, operations research, surveillance, GIS (geographical information systems) to research the emergence of health disparities in marginalized communities and their relationship to environmental pollution stemming from technology, industrialization, engineering design and urbanization. Professional interests also include environmental literacy, health cognition and activism among African Americans, Africans, Latinos, and ethnic immigrant populations and how they respond to environmental degradation and environmental health disparities in their communities as a function of their socio-economic status and clinical health predispositions.

Considering interactions with environmental justice communities and the prevalence of environmental morbidities, Dr. Washington expanded her research practice to provide clinical care for this population. She became internationally certified as a lymphatic therapist, CLT-LANA, in 2018 through the Lymphology Association of North America (CLT-LANA.org); and expanded her company to become a Medicare Approved and BOC Accredited Durable Medical Equipment (DME) provider doing business under the name, Natural Paths for Lymphatic Wellness. Many of the patients who had become environmentally overexposed had developed (or born with) comprised lymphatic (immune systems) and were dealing with cancer or autoimmune disorders. She also utilized her formal training as Naturopathic Doctor (ND) which focused on managing health for individuals with compromised immune systems. Her company successfully received a competitive loan from Illinois Ventures in 2013 to develop the business concept of an integrated environmental epidemiology company that also provided clinical care. The money was used to purchase a 3000-sf building that was gut rehabbed to meet LEED standards for indoor environmental health quality.

Dr. Washington has been an invited speaker for University of Chicago, Northwestern University, Duke University, MIT, Oberlin College, Amherst College, Notre Dame University, Dominican University, Yale University and Williams College. As well as an invited speaker for the Archdiocese of San Francisco and Archdiocese of Chicago. She is currently on the Editorial Board of the National Catholic Report Earthbeat Magazine.

Speech Topics

Laudato Si and its Implication for All Life

Science, Technology and Environmental Genomics

Eugenics and Racial Disparities of Abortion in the African American Community

Climate Change and Climate Justice

Public health and Environmental health disparities.

Environmental Racism/Environmental Justice

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