Type of Work

Research Paper

Publication Date



For decades, communities of lower socioeconomic status have been disproportionately affected by hazardous waste and other harmful environmental toxins due to phenomena like redlining and white flight. Specifically, locations of lower socioeconomic status experience greater instances of heavy metals in the environment and in drinking water. In this study, we placed samples of ribbed mussels (Geukensia demissa) in the Connecticut River in four locations of varying socioeconomic status based on median household income: Hartford, Middletown, Haddam, and Glastonbury, CT. Using these mussels as a bioindicator, we sought to determine whether heavy metal concentrations varied based on location socioeconomic status. After collecting samples of the mussels weekly over a five week period, we analyzed the heavy metal concentration of lead, chromium, and cadmium, as well as other metals, using a graphite furnace atomic absorption spectrometer (AAS). Using one-sample t tests, we found that lead, chromium, and cadmium were reliably present in each sample location (with the exception of lead in Haddam and Hartford). Using independent-groups t tests, we found that the concentration of lead did not differ based on socioeconomic status, but that chromium and cadmium existed in higher concentrations in locations of higher socioeconomic status. These results indicate that some factor other than socioeconomic status may be responsible for heavy metal concentration differences. Based on the trends in our data, we posit that relative location upriver/downriver may play a bigger role in determining these concentrations than socioeconomic status.

Hamilton Areas of Study


Hamilton Sponsoring Organization

Levitt Public Affairs Center

Hamilton Scholarship Series

Levitt Summer Research Fellowship

Hamilton Faculty Advisor

Carolyn Hutchinson