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Environmental Factor

July 2011

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NIEHS partner honored for environmental stewardship

By Eddy Ball
July 2011

Cover of Inside Jersey magazine, featuring Mary and Charles Lamielle.

The Star Ledger magazine "Inside Jersey" showcases Mary Lamielle, right, and husband Charles in its coverage of the Jefferson Award's ceremony. (Photo courtesy of the Star-Ledger)

NIEHS Public Interest Partners member Mary Lamielle was honored for her environmental stewardship June 8 in Newark, N.J., where she received the PSEG (Public Service Enterprise Group) Environmental Stewardship Governor's Jefferson Award( Exit NIEHS.

Since 2007, the Jefferson Award program has recognized citizens who make extraordinary contributions to their communities and celebrated the power of volunteerism in New Jersey to improve the quality of life there. This year's awards honored 19 individuals, selected from more than 1,000 nominees.

A tireless advocate for people disabled by chemical sensitivities

Lamielle is the founder and executive director of the National Center for Environmental Health Strategies (NCEHS), Inc.( Exit NIEHS in Voorhees, N.J. NCEHS is an organization that fosters the development of creative solutions to environmental health problems, pursuing a mission of protecting the public health, and improving the lives of people affected by chemical and environmental exposures. She was nominated for the Jefferson by Claudia Miller, M.D., who co-authored the landmark study of chemical sensitivity and intolerance for which the New Jersey Department of Health was awarded the World Health Organization's Macedo Award; Diane Reibel, Ph.D., a professor at the Jefferson Medical College; and Jane Nogaki, former vice chair of the New Jersey Environmental Federation.

In her letter of nomination, Reibel wrote, "For thirty years through her volunteer efforts, she [Lamielle] has been a passionate educator and advocate on behalf of people sick from chemical exposures and a protector of public health" - often, Reibel noted, as Lamielle struggled with her own illness caused by environmental exposures.

Reibel, who first met Lamielle 24 years ago, pointed to her friend and colleague's many pioneering accomplishments. These include initiating the landmark N.J. Study of Chemical Sensitivity; providing invited congressional testimony on the Indoor Air Quality Act; securing the first congressional funding for research on chemical sensitivities; serving on the expert panel convened to examine this issue; working to secure U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development recognition of chemical sensitivities as a disability; and securing acknowledgement of chemical sensitivities as a disability in the Americans with Disabilities Act.

An honor recognized nationwide

The Jefferson Award program is administered by the N.J. Governor's Office of Volunteerism, the Star-Ledger newspaper, and the Community Foundation of New Jersey. PSEG, Verizon, PNC Bank, and Becton, Dickinson and Company (BD) are corporate underwriters of the awards. In addition to environmental stewardship, the program recognizes individuals, businesses, and groups involved in activities ranging from arts and education to health care and community services.

Lamielle was one of four New Jersey nominees invited to the Jefferson Awards ceremony in Washington, D.C., June 20-22. Highlights included a visit with one of their state's senators, a visit to the White House, and two evening events, one of which was the black tie Jefferson Awards for Public Service emceed by Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, daughter of Senator Robert Kennedy and niece of award cofounder Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. National honorees this year include Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Lamielle is one of the 25-member Public Interest Partners(, which is made up of representatives of diverse groups, including disease, disability and environmental education, and advocacy organizations. Members offer NIEHS community perspectives on the research agenda of NIEHS, and serve as a key contributor to the translation of research findings for the public, policy makers, and private foundations. Lamielle has been invited to participate in the 2011 NIEHS Strategic Planning Stakeholder Community Workshop July 12-14 in Research Triangle Park, N.C.

Lamielle calls for more answers

"I hope that the Jefferson Award for Public Service will heighten visibility of what has, for decades, been an invisible public health problem," Lamielle said, following the award ceremony. "Eighteen years ago, members of an expert panel on chemical sensitivities and intolerances, convened by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, with directed congressional funds, recommended forming an interagency committee across [or which would consist of representatives of] disability, regulatory and research agencies, and clinical research using an environmental medical unit. Our organization continues to call for an interagency committee to catalyze a federal agency response to address these disabilities."

"The recently released Action Agenda for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention National Conversation on Public Health and Chemical Exposures [see related story(] recommends research on chemical sensitivities and intolerances using an environmental medical unit. Nearly two decades have passed. Millions more Americans report serious illness and disability due to chemical exposures," Lamielle continued. "It's time to act."

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