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Community Assessment of Freeway Exposure and Health (CAFEH)

CAFEH Report Cover

The Community Assessment of Freeway Exposure and Health (CAFEH), the signature study of the Tisch College Community Research Center, is a series of community-based participatory research projects that have partnered with local communities to learn about and address pollution from highways and busy roadways. The initial five-year, multimillion dollar research project funded by the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences studied the association between near-highway air pollution and cardiovascular risk factors, developing detailed models of individuals’ exposure to ultrafine particulate matter and collecting cross-sectional health data on 704 participants. In what may be the first demonstration of a risk to residents near highways from ultrafine particles, the study demonstrated that elevated levels of this kind of air pollution near major roadways are associated with a higher risk of heart attack and stroke. Beyond the main findings, CAFEH has also been a highly productive academic endeavor, leading to close to 30 published articles in peer-reviewed journals. In 2016, a new $2.26 million, 5-year NIH grant funded the next stage of the project: to engage communities in implementing in-building air filtration in new and retrofitted housing and schools as a strategy to reduce exposure to airborne ultrafine particles.

As a community-based participatory research (CBPR) project, the study was conducted in conjunction with local leaders and organizations. These indispensable community partners were engaged in all aspects of the research, including developing the proposal; leading the study; and collecting, analyzing, and interpreting the data.


Ellin Reisner, Somerville Transportation Equity Partnership
Willie Mae Bennett-Fripp, Committee for Boston Public Housing
Lydia Lowe, Chinatown Progressive Association
Wig Zamore, Somerville Transportation Equity Partnership
Terry Yin, Chinatown Resident Association
Barry Keppard, Metropolitan Area Planning Council
Noemie Sportiche, Metropolitan Area Planning Council
Paul Shoemaker, Boston Public Health Commission
Alex Bob, City of Somerville