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Cleveland Museum of Natural History, Case Western partner on home health project

Feb. 23, 2009 (AP): The Cleveland Museum of Natural History and Case Western Reserve University's School of Medicine have joined together to study health hazards in the home.

The new Center for Environmental Health and Human Ecology will work to raise awareness about the dangers of lead paint, poor water quality in residential and other buildings and other related issues, organizers said. They believe the center is the first of its kind.

The museum and university announced the partnership Monday.

``Scientists need a link between their knowledge and the public, and we would like to provide that link,'' said Linda Spurlock, the museum's human-health director.

The center will be funded through a museum endowment and public education money obtained by the university's environmental health sciences department. No cost estimate has been released.

The focus of the center's projects will be dependent on the interests of the yet-to-be-named director, who will also pursue grants, conduct research and teach in a tenure track position at the medical school, she said.

The director would have an office at both institutions and be responsible for striking a balance between understanding complicated scientific research and presenting that information in a form the general public can understand, she said.

Project ideas suggested so far include educational museum exhibits, academic lectures and presentations to students at local schools.

``Some of the outreach will be on a very professional level, and some of the outreach will be for kindergartners,'' Spurlock said. ``I think that's what's exciting about this.''

Another possible early project would be to buy an old home in Cleveland's University Circle and renovate it into a model ``healthy house'' as a way to show residents how to eliminate problems like rotting plaster and dust mites, organizers said.

``There are multiple issues that are facing us, and only with an educated public can we achieve the political will and political knowledge to move forward on those issues,'' said Dr. Dorr Dearborn, the chairman of the university's environmental health sciences department.

Dearborn said the museum's experience with public education—it serves nearly 270,000 visitors annually—will be an asset to help spread the word about how people can create healthier spaces.

Information from: The Plain Dealer, http://www.cleveland.com






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