Lead in soil is a problem that is nearly ubiquitous. It can be found in playgrounds and parks, urban gardens, and backyards in communities around the world. But how do we know just how widespread the problem is? How can we learn how people in different countries are dealing with it?

One researcher at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is looking at these very questions. Abby Kinchy, a sociologist and professor of science and technology studies at Rensselaer, is exploring the potential of “citizen science” for generating knowledge about lead in the environment, with the support of a National Science Foundation grant. Citizen science refers to projects in which people who are not professional scientists take part in structured, collective efforts to investigate some aspect of their environment.

Kinchy’s research team is helping people to collaboratively test soil for traces of lead, while using sociological research methods to gain insights about how people think about their own exposures to lead, their relationships to the environmental histories of their communities, and living safely in contaminated environments.

“My goal is to understand how people in different environments — from lead mines to urban neighborhoods — are creating knowledge about soil lead, developing and promoting methods to reduce exposures, and changing the social and economic circumstances in which lead exposures occur,” Kinchy said.

Kinchy is available to discuss her work in the context of Lead Prevention Week or in the setting of citizen science in general.

Additional links and resources:

The CDC has announced that this is National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week (Oct 24 – 30):


Here is a link to Kinchy’s bio:


Here is a link to the press release about her recent work:


Here is a link to a short video that highlights some of the work she did this summer: