These hazards can impact health and safety. Maintaining healthy homes and communities is essential to environmental health.
Infrastructure and Surveillance
Preventing exposure to environmental hazards relies on many partners, including state and local health departments. Personnel, surveillance systems, and education are important resources for investigating and responding to disease, monitoring for hazards, and educating the public. Additional methods and greater capacity to measure and respond to environmental hazards are needed.
Global Environmental Health
Water quality is an important global challenge. Diseases can be reduced by improving water quality and sanitation and increasing access to adequate water and sanitation facilities.
Emerging Issues in Environmental Health
Environmental health is a dynamic and evolving field. While not all complex environmental issues can be predicted, some known emerging issues in the field include:
Climate change is projected to impact sea level, patterns of infectious disease, air quality, and the severity of natural disasters such as floods, droughts, and storms.3, 4
Preparedness for the environmental impact of natural disasters as well as disasters of human origin includes planning for human health needs and the impact on public infrastructure, such as water and roadways.5
The potential impact of nanotechnology is significant and offers possible improvements to:
- Disease prevention, detection, and treatment
- Clean energy
- Environmental risk assessment
However, nanotechnology may also present unintended health risks or changes to the environment.6
The Built Environment
Features of the built environment appear to impact human health—influencing behaviors, physical activity patterns, social networks, and access to resources.7
Exposure to Unknown Hazards
Every year, hundreds of new chemicals are introduced to the U.S. market. It is presumed that some of these chemicals may present new, unexpected challenges to human health, and their safety should be evaluated prior to release.
These cross-cutting issues are not yet understood well enough to inform the development of systems for measuring and tracking their impact. Further exploration is warranted. The environmental health landscape will continue to evolve and may present opportunities for additional research, analysis, and monitoring.
Blood Lead Levels
As of 2017, there are approximately 4 million houses or buildings that have children living in them who are potentially being exposed to lead. Nearly half a million U.S. children ages 1 to 5 have blood lead levels at or above 5 micrograms per deciliter (µg/dL), which is currently the reference level at which CDC recommends public health actions be taken. Even blood lead exposure levels as low as 2 micrograms per deciliter (µg/dL) can affect a child’s cognitive function. Since no safe blood lead level have been identified for children, any exposure should be taken seriously. However, since lead exposure often occurs with no obvious signs or symptoms, it often remains unrecognized. CDC’s Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program is committed to the Healthy People 2020 goals of eliminating childhood lead exposures and decreasing disparities in the differences in average risk of lead exposure based on race and social class as public health concerns.
1World Health Organization. Preventing disease through healthy environments. Geneva, Switzerland: WHO; 2006.
2U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards. Our Nation’s air: Status and trends through 2008. Washington, DC: EPA; 2010.
3Patz J, Campbell-Lendrum D, Holloway T, et al. Impact of regional climate change on human health. Nature. 2005 Nov 17;438(7066):310-17.
4Kinney PL. Climate change, air quality, and human health. Am J Prev Med. 2008 Nov;35(5):459-67.
5Noji E, Lee CY. Disaster preparedness. In: Frumkin H, editor. Environmental health, from global to local. 1st edition. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass; 2005.
6Bhattacharya K, Mukherjee SP, Gallud A, et al. Biological interactions of carbon-based nanomaterials: From coronation to degradation. Nanomedicine. 2016 Feb;12(2):333–51.
7Jackson R, Dannenberg A, Frumkin H. Health and the Built Environment: 10 Years After. Am J Public Health. 2013 September;103(9):1542–44.
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