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Center for Health, Environment, and Justice Records

Call Number: MS001

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Scope and Contents

This collection consists of records from the Center for Health, Environment and Justice (CHEJ), previously called the Citizen’s Clearinghouse for Hazardous Wastes, Inc (CCHW). It contains newspaper clippings; government publications; scientific reports; grant applications; publications; administrative documents including financial, personnel, event and project development files; reports; meeting notes and minutes; event agendas; subject files; congressional and legal testimony; speeches; handbooks; media training kits and correspondence concerning environmental, health and public safety issues from 1945 to 2016. The bulk dates for the collection are 1985-2010. The material was created or used in the day to day functions of CHEJ and includes mainly paper records but also some photographs; film and slides; oversize maps and charts; electronic files; grey literature; and government publications. The collection also contains copies of CHEJ’s quarterly publication, Everyone’s Backyard.

The records relate to CHEJ's work as a grassroots organization promoting the health and well-being of communities faced with environmental threats. The organization was founded by Lois Marie Gibbs in 1981 after her success leading the Love Canal Homeowners Association in the fight to be relocated from a toxic waste site in the Love Canal neighborhood of Niagara Falls, New York. Gibbs’ work at Love Canal was instrumental in the passing of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA), more commonly known as Superfund. Many of the records relate to Superfund sites and include copies of the National Priorities List and reports from the CERCLA database (CERCLIS).Other major records creators are Stephen Lester, Science Director; and Barbara Sullivan, Ron Davis, Renee Blanchard, Cynthia Smith and Pam Stone, who performed administrative and project management duties.

The collection covers the organization’s work from its origins as a clearinghouse for information on environmental issues and follows its growth as a facilitator of change. It also documents CHEJ's role as an educator for other activists and the public on environmental health concerns, leadership, fundraising, and environmental laws and legislation. Some of the major projects represented in the records are the Landfill Moratorium Campaign in 1984, Toxic Merry-Go-Round Campaign in 1985, McToxics Campaign in 1987, Kick Ash Campaign in 1988, Stop Dioxin Campaign in 1995, Child Proofing our Communities in 2000, BE SAFE Campaign in 2002, and the PVC Campaign in 2004.


  • Majority of material found within 1985 -- 2010
  • 1942 -- 2016



This collection contains some restricted material. Specific restrictions are noted in the Detailed Contents List in each series.

Records on digital media have been stabilized and made available via Box. Note that files were not converted for access and all may not be viewable in Box. Please contact DCA for further details

Conditions Governing Use

Some material in this collection may be protected by copyright and other rights. Please see "Reproductions and Use" on the Digital Collections and Archives website for more information about reproductions and permission to publish.

Any intellectual property rights which the donor posseses have not been transferred to Tufts University.


This collection is organized in twenty-three series: Community newsletters; Main issue files; Library materials; General correspondence; Corporate files; Mini-grant files; Accounting files; Publications; Office files; Convention files; Lois Gibbs files; Board files; Stephen Lester files; Community files; Community reports; Hazardous waste site files; Newsclips; Video and audiotapes; Photographs, graphics, cartoons, and CCHW seal; Development; Special project files; Posters and promotional materials; and Digital records.

Related Materials

MS063 Lois Gibbs Love Canal papers, DCA.
Vilma R. Hunt papers, Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University.
Records of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (Record Group 412), National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).
Love Canal collections, University at Buffalo, State University of New York (SUNY).


802.67 Linear Feet

1143 Digital Object(s) (Of the 1143 digital objects in the collection, 915 represent computer disks from which 43,284 files were extracted, comprising 65.4 GBs of data.)

2 web_sites

Language of Materials


Biographical / Historical

The Center for Health, Environment and Justice was founded in 1981 by Lois Marie Gibbs under the name Citizen’s Clearinghouse for Hazardous Waste, Inc. (CCHW). The organization grew out of Gibbs’ experience organizing her community in Love Canal, New York. The Love Canal experience taught her to fight for information and support after discovering her son's elementary school was built on a toxic waste site. Gibbs' experience as a community activist led her to create CCHW to help other citizens in similar situations through grassroots organizing. The early efforts of the organization helped people obtain information and access to tools that would allow them to organize and motivate their communities, resolve their problems, receive compensation and government aid, and understand scientific data in layman’s terms.

In their first two years, CCHW performed site visits and developed publicity programs. These programs included films, the Everyone’s Backyard newsletter, and direct mail campaigns. In order to understand the issues facing unique communities, they developed a Community Health Profile survey that was circulated to communities exposed to toxic wastes. Membership campaigns and fundraising efforts financed the growth of their organization and led to the creation of leadership development conferences. CCHW hosted these conferences in several states around the country to promote activism and leadership skills around environmental issues.

As CCHW continued to establish itself, it operated as an information clearinghouse for hazardous waste issues. Through their main office in Virginia, they focused on providing topical information on environmental hazards, fundraising practices, and grassroots organizing. They distributed this information through Everyone’s Backyard, Action Line and Fact Packs. In 1986, they set up field offices in Texas, Georgia, and Virginia. These field offices coordinated site visits, reviewed Community Leadership Development Grant applications, and kept in contact with local organizers as they worked on projects affecting their community. In these site visits, CCHW staff attended local meetings and offered information, training, scientific analyses, and support. These field offices closed in the early-1990s and the main office absorbed these functions.

In 1997, CCHW changed their name to Citizen’s Clearinghouse for Hazardous Waste: Center for Health, Environment, and Justice. In 1998, they shortened the name to Center for Health, Environment and Justice. The organization consists of a Board of Directors, an executive director, a science director, and staff for daily administration and project management. The Board of Directors has overseen CHEJ since 1984 and is comprised of community leaders and professionals. They provide supervision of the executive director and review financial and large project efforts. Lois Gibbs is the founder and served as the Executive Director from 1981-2015. Laura Barrett became Executive Director in August 2015. As of 2015, Stephen Lester is the Science Director and he oversees the analysis of test results and research. The science department under his prevue distributes relevant hazardous waste information and CHEJ’s interpretation of the research to communities through their informational network. Administrative staff supports the grassroots network through grants, leadership training, communications and correspondence, and conventions like those held in 1989, 1993, and 1997.

CHEJ has led several national campaigns to inform citizens about hazardous waste threats, to put pressure on governmental agencies to affect change, and to increase community involvement in environmental issues. These nationally led campaigns support already established grassroots efforts by raising common issues to a national audience. These campaigns include Landfill Moratorium Campaign in 1984, Toxic Merry-Go-Round Campaign in 1985, McToxics Campaign in 1987, Kick Ash Campaign in 1988, Stop Dioxin Campaign in 1995, Child Proofing our Communities in 2000, BE SAFE Campaign in 2002, and the PVC Campaign in 2004. CHEJ also established partnerships in the environmental activist community that helped create new organizations including Health Care Without Harm.

Following Gibbs’ success with the 1980 Superfund legislation, CHEJ continues to influence federal policy regarding environmental health, justice and safety issues. Their McToxics Campaign led to McDonalds ceasing the use of Styrofoam packaging. The Stop Dioxin Campaign raised awareness about dioxin in a national public forum which resulted in increased political pressure for federal change. CHEJ continues to support grassroots activism and networking to promote citizen involvement in improving the health and environment of their communities.

Processing Information

Two boxes of Love Canal material from accession 2015.013 were moved to MS063 Lois Gibbs Love Canal papers in November 2015.

In MS001.001: Community newsletters, materials from accession 2015.013 were processed in spring 2015 by Dan Bullman (Archives and Research Assistant), under the supervision of Liz Francis (Records Archivist). Additional community newsletters were found in other series and separated into this series. Newsletters separated from MS001.003 Library materials and MS001.013 Stephen Lester files were arranged and described at the end of the series (boxes 068 and 069) by work-study students under the supervision of Adrienne Pruitt (Collections Management Archivist) in fall 2015.

In MS001.002: Main issue files, a few folders of “to be filed” are included at the end of this series. These were originally found in the final drawer of the filing cabinets. We filed those articles that were already labeled but maintained articles that had been arbitrarily grouped in folders. These folders have been recycled and their titles do not pertain to their contents.

In MS001.003: Library materials, published books that could be easily found in a library were separated from the collection. However, books published by CHEJ or that included mention of or writing by the organization were kept. Second copies are noted when grouped together and triplicate copies were weeded. Publications were placed in folders when they were small and could be easily overlooked among the larger sized publications.

In MS001.004: General correspondence, boxes arrived with two runs of correspondence organized by state, which were interfiled. Additional contact sheets can be found within folders in series 9, Office files. Two boxes (040 and 047a) from accession 2015.013 were separated from MS001.013 Stephen Lester files and integrated into this series in October 2015..

In MS001.005: Corporate files, additional material was found in other series and added to the end of this series.

In MS001.006: Mini-grant files, select files contain personal financial information and should be reviewed before access is granted. One grant application was found in series 13, Stephen Lester files. It is outside the bulk date of the series and may be connected to future accessions.

In MS001.008: Publications, the DCA holds multiple copies of all regular publications, including all holdings of their three primary publications. If slides and photo negatives were attached to proof paper, the originals were photocopied to maintain their arrangement and originals were placed in archival sleeves within folders

In MS001.009: Office files came to the DCA in two accessions. Some boxes contain material from a single creator which is noted in the box title. DCA staff arranged materials by office of origin. The decision was made not to arrange at the folder level because any imposed order would have destroyed contextual information.

In MS001:010: Convention files, banners, and flip chart pages are housed in map cases and the contents of the electronic files were removed from portable media and migrated to more stable file formats. Some files were not readable and these are noted in the item records.

In MS001.011: Lois Gibbs files, records relating to her Love Canal efforts and her activities as a board member on the Environmental Support Center, Love Canal Medical Fund Trust, and LEAF were moved to the Lois Gibbs’ Love Canal papers (MS063), also held by the DCA. Lois Gibbs legacy files, acquired in 1995 and originally part of the CHEJ collection, were also moved to MS063.

In MS001.012: Board files, the DCA staff imposed chronological arrangement at the folder level. In accession 2015.013, meeting minutes were retained and described at the box-level. Financial information and documents with personally identifiable information were separated for return to the donor.

In MS001.013: Stephen Lester files, the hazardous waste site files came in two separate state runs that, upon discussion with Lester, were compiled into one. Future accessions may contain further state runs. The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) files are arranged alphabetically by committee topic and chronologically within topic. Any NAS subject folders discussed at the meeting are filed before the binder and notes of that meeting. In accession 2015.013, 3.5 cubic feet of decorative posters and maps from technical reports and reviews were separated for return to the donor. Additionally, 15 cubic feet of government publications, photocopies of declassified documents, unsuccessful grant applications, program reviews, travel receipts and itineraries, convention badges and programs, Japanese and Russian language publications, review drafts of publications, and a Thorium Action Group (T.A.G.) button were separated for return to the donor. In consultation with the National Institute of Medicine, embargoed publications and documents from that organization were sent for confidential destruction. 3.5" floppy disks, 5.25" floppy disks, CDs, and DVDs were stabilized by Dan Bullman, Stefana Breitwieser, Steven Gentry, Elizabeth McGorty, Rose Oliveira, Margaret Peachy, Sony Prosper, and Kike Weaver during 2015-2017. The extracted files were processed by Margaret Peachy, Digital Archivist, from Fall 2017-Spring 2018.

In MS001.015: Community reports were arranged in received order. Several duplicate publications were separated for return to the donor.

In MS001.016: Hazardous waste site files, printouts and documents were housed in appropriate folders for preservation.

In MS001.017: Newspaper clippings, this entire series was marked for separation for return to the donor in September-October 2015 because it contained articles from national and local news publications that are widely available in other repositories.

In MS001.018: Video and audiotapes, this series is minimally processed at the container level. 7 audiotapes were added to Box 8 and 6 videotapes were added to Box 9 during additional processing in August 2016.

In MS001.019: Photographs, graphics, cartoons, and CCHW seal, this series was processed in summer 2015 by Dan Bullman. Many of the photographs lacked any identifying information, so Bullman conducted research to identify and arrange. Additional metadata was provided by Stephen Lester and Lois Gibbs during processing. Photo albums and binders were photocopied to show original order, then disassembled for preservation purposes and arranged intellectually with the rest of the photographs during processing. Photographs on digital media have been stabilized.

In MS001.020: Development, grant application files were rehoused from filing cabinets into boxes and left in their received order, which was approximately alphabetical. Donor lists, mailings, and other development files were separated for return to the donor.

In MS001.021: Special project files, 3.5" floppy disks, 5.25" floppy disks, CDs, and DVDs were stabilized by Dan Bullman, Stefana Breitwieser, Steven Gentry, Elizabeth McGorty, Rose Oliveira, Margaret Peachy, Sony Prosper, and Kike Weaver during 2015-2017. The extracted files were processed by Margaret Peachy, Digital Archivist, from Fall 2017-Spring 2018.

In MS001.023: Digital records, 3.5" floppy disks, 5.25" floppy disks, CDs, and DVDs were stabilized by Dan Bullman, Stefana Breitwieser, Steven Gentry, Elizabeth McGorty, Rose Oliveira, Margaret Peachy, Sony Prosper, and Kike Weaver during 2015-2017. The extracted files were processed by Margaret Peachy, Digital Archivist, from Fall 2017-Spring 2018.

This collection was processed from Fall 2011-Summer 2012 by Sarah Gustafson and Erin Faulder, graduate assistants, and supervised by Veronica Martzahl, Records Archivist and Susanne Belovari, Archivist for Reference and Collections.

Materials from accession number 2015.013 were processed by Rose Oliveira, Tim Walsh, and Dan Bullman (Archives and Research Assistants), under the supervision of Liz Francis (Records Archivist) and Adrienne Pruitt (Collections Management Archivist), in 2015. Digital materials were processed by Margaret Peachy (Digital Archivist) Fall 2017-Spring 2018.

Repository Details

Part of the Digital Collections and Archives, Tufts University Repository

35 Professors Row
Tisch Library Building
Tufts University
Medford Massachusetts 02155 United States