Characterizing Industrial Air Toxins

Louisville, Kentucky

Featured image for the project, Characterizing Industrial Air Toxins

Photo Courtesy of Eboni Cochran, ReACT


Rubbertown is the nickname given to an industrial area along the Ohio River at the southwest corner of the City of Louisville. It gets its name from tire and synthetic rubber plants that were built there during World War II near existing refineries. Factories in Rubbertown now produce a wide variety of chemicals and materials, employ hundreds of people and bring millions of dollars into the local economy.1


Because of this locus of rubber industry, residents in West Louisville have noticed and complained about the noxious fumes that they attribute to growing incidence of cancer, asthma and other respiratory diseases. Historically, Rubbertown is characterized by a large minority population – particularly African American. Although there have been state level air monitoring efforts, those ended in 2014.


This increasing industrial effects upon West Louisville led to the development of citizen organizations such as, Rubbertown Emergency Action (ReACT). The group advocates for more assessment and control of air emissions. As a founding member of the Coming Clean network, they are united with other citizen organizations across the country to ensure reform to the industrial chemical and fossil fuels industries so they are no longer a source of harm, and to secure systemic changes that allow a safe chemical and clean energy economy to flourish. In a recent accountability session co-hosted with Coming Clean and including the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), ReAct found that there needed to be collaborative problem solving around air toxics.



The scientific partner(s) would work primarily with Eboni Cochran of Rubbertown Emergency Action (ReACT).

Eboni and ReACT commit to working 3-5 hours per week on this project.

Moreover, ReACT will share historical data on chemical releases, exposure and effects that they have collected and make any new data, observations or concerns available. They will discuss relevant historical, community and political context that would aid in the development and execution of the research project.

Scientist Wanted

Eboni seeks a scientific partner(s) with air pollution monitoring expertise to help citizens of West Louisville, KY, characterize the sources and types of chemical pollutants.

The expectation is that this characterization report could be discussed in a public forum and that ReACT, the citizens and scientific partner(s) might develop feasible and actionable recommendations together.

TEX asks all scientific partners to work with the community to help define a project with concrete local impact that they can contribute to as pro-bono volunteers and collaborators.  This work can also position the scientists and communities to seek additional funding, together, for the next stage.


Timeline and Outcome

Work will begin as soon as possible, with an expected duration of 6-8 months.

The primary deliverable(s) for this project will be a chemical analysis and co-produced recommendations. This work will enable Rubbertown residents to understand health impacts of local air quality and pollution levels from area industries and formulate actionable steps for various actors that would reduce exposure and other related concerns of community residents. These evidence-based outcomes will enable the local community, through ReACT, to equitably engage with national, state and local groups, industry and local legislatures. 


Desired Skills and Expertise

  • Atmospheric composition and structure expertise as it relates to air quality, pollution and environmental health
  • Familiarity with federal and state air quality regulations and permitting
  • Understanding of pollution, health and environmental assessments as they relate to the rubber industry.
  • Experience and/or desire to participate in community education, outreach and engagement on pollution and how it relates to health.
  • An interest in long-term community engagement and support
  • Willingness to connect science to local concerns
  • Flexibility and understanding that environmental justice is not always front and center for those in the community
  • Strong listening and collaboration skills
  • Public speaking skills
  • Competent and open to new ideas and different perspectives
  • Relaxed, easy going personality with a good sense of humor
  • The scientist should be able to work with the community remotely and/or in-person.