Environmental Exposures: Health Outcomes for Minority Owned Auto Repair Shops

Application Deadline:

Project Status:

  • Filled


  • Health care access,
  • Population health,
  • Demography,
  • Occupational health,
  • Social determinants of health


  • United States


  • Durham, NC

Start Date:

End Date:

Project Type:

  • Student Research Training Program


  • Yes

Environmental Exposures: Health Outcomes for Minority Owned Auto Repair Shops

Project Description and Objectives

Minority owned auto repair shops are abundant in Durham and Wake County, and the practices of the auto workers are similar to auto workers in Ghana. Recent studies on health status of auto workers in Ghana has indicated high levels of heavy metals with associated elevated blood pressures.

According to National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, the death rates among workers in auto repair and auto body shops among African Americans and Hispanics are relatively high compared to whites. In North Carolina, and in Durham, minority-owned auto-mechanics shops located in low-income neighborhoods are likely at risk for adverse health effects.  This project aims to better understand the determinants of risk for heavy metals and potential adverse health outcomes for local auto-repair workers, as well as to provide education and support for remedying negative outcomes.

Project Opportunities

Students in this project will help assess current practices and knowledge of local auto-repair workers around heavy metal exposure and safety, as well as barriers and preferences to mitigation of harmful effects.  In addition, students will help assess exposure to toxins by evaluating levels of heavy metals in hair and nail samples.   

Activities for Spring and Summer 2021 may include:

  • Performing site visits to decide where interviews can be conducted.
  • Develop sustainable collaborations around methods and assessment capacity with partner shops
  • Collect longitudinal and cross-sectional data on knowledge, health practices, and health outcomes, using current tools and, as needed, developing new instruments
  • Collect biomarkers (hair samples, toe and finger nails) and blood pressure, weight and height from partner shops. 
  • Help analyze findings, write reports and make recommendations to mitigate any adverse conditions and health effects.
  • Explore and asses service support programs for workers and auto-repair management staff.

Project Selection Criteria 

  • Interest in environmental health and social science research.
  • Knowledge (course or experience) or interest in research methods, qualitative and quantitative data collection, statistical analysis, bio-sample assessment
  • Interest in health policy and mitigating health inequities
  • Self-motivated learner, highly organized, and flexible.
  • Passionate about GH and sensitive to cultural conditions.
  • Able to work well independently as well as in a team of peers.  Professional and mature work styles with community members and any community supervisors, and faculty leads.
  • Spanish language skills and course work and/or experience in environmental health useful