Integrating Environmental Justice as a Critical Function in Addressing Environmental Public Health Concerns

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Table of Contents

Introduction: Addressing Environmental Justice as a Routine Activity in Environmental Health The Massachusetts Environmental Public Health Tracking Program Case Examples: Use of Local Data to Drive Policy Empowering Advocates and Local Government to Take Action Summary





I. Introduction
 The

Bureau of Environmental Health has a broad mission of protecting the public health from a variety of environmental exposures. The Bureau responds to environmental health concerns and provides communities with epidemiologic and toxicological health assessments Bureau comprises nine programs

 The  The

Bureau also ensures regulatory compliance related to food and radiation safety, as well as the state sanitary codeas the state sanitary code.


Addressing Environmental Justice (EJ) as a Routine Activity in Environmental Health in MA

Massachusetts is the only state in the country with comprehensive pediatric asthma data for grades K-8 (100 percent reporting from all schools in MA) The Massachusetts Lead Law requires universal screening for blood lead levels in all children up to age three; Massachusetts regulations also call for children in high-risk communities to be tested up to age four

Because the effects of climate change will likely have a disproportionate affect on EJ populations, our department is working with health officials to ensure local adaptation planning considers our most vulnerable populations


Addressing Environmental Justice Continued

Large facility siting decisions (e.g. proposed power plant) often involve siting facilities in EJ communities; our toxicologists consider existing disease burden among vulnerable populations when providing comments Our housing inspectors enforce minimum standards for housing that can be more problematic in EJ communities, and notably in migrant farm worker housing, due to negligent landlords Educating residents in EJ communities about health risks associated with certain fish consumed by recreational subsistence fishers from contaminated waters is an important environmental health outreach activity Cancer investigations for some cancer types, e.g. breast cancer, may be affected by differing screening rates (e.g. breast cancer incidence could appear low due to late stage diagnosis among under-served populations). For that reason, staff routinely look at both incidence and mortality data


II. Massachusetts Environmental Public Health Tracking Portal

The Massachusetts Portal includes CDC required health and environmental data Additionally, the Massachusetts Portal contains some special features (e.g. cancer mapping tool)


Visualization and Integration of Spatial Data
Health Outcomes

Environmental Contamination


Aerial Photography

Physical Geography



III. Case Examples: Use of Local Data to Drive Policy

lead poisoning data

Pediatric Asthma


Application of Environmental Justice Indicators: High Risk Communities for Elevated Blood Lead Levels
High Risk Communities
 

--% below moderate income (<$35,000 from 2000 census) % old housing stock (built pre-1950) determined for each community --Communities that have at least 15 children (6-72 months) having a BLL≥ 20 µg/dL per year (averaged over the last 5 years) --Adjusted Incidence rate ≥ state incidence rate per 1000 children




Springfield Biomass
o MDPH was contacted by community residents concerned about a proposed new energy facility to be sited in their neighborhood in Springfield, MA

o The facility proponents planned to burn construction and demolition debris as fuel for the biomass facility
o An important concern about the proposed fuel for the facility (C&D waste) was that these wastes contained heavy metals and other pollutants that could negatively impact air quality in the neighborhood o In response MDPH reviewed pediatric asthma data among school children in the schools located closest to the proposed facility site


IV. Empowering Advocates and Local Government to Take Action

data can be used to provide baseline health status of a neighborhood or community
health status then can influence policy decisions related to environmental issues

 Baseline



Project Goal: Building a new ULSD peak energy facility in Chelsea, MA

Issue: Community residents asked public health officials to address their concerns regarding
potential exposures related to facility operations (emissions, truck traffic, etc)
• In May of 2007 examined pediatric asthma prevalence from four elementary schools (complex of 1,800 students) located ¼ mile from the proposed site 3 out of 4 schools at the complex had pediatric asthma rates statistically significantly higher than the statewide rate MDPH/BEH evaluated proponent’s estimate of impacts on community for facility related emissions and recommended a number of additional analyses to better characterize potential impact MDPH/BEH also recommended that various mitigation efforts to reduce the proposed impacts should be considered once the more refined impact estimates were determined Unfortunately, in large part due to the economic decline, this project did not go forward


Somerville, Massachusetts
Project Goal: Provide linkage through city of Somerville to connect with Minuteman bike trail to the

west and eventually be linked with the MA Central Rail Trail Issue: Nearby residents were concerned about railroad tie removal and building demolition at MaxPak site and exposure to contaminants/ fugitive dust and impacts on health

MaxPak site consisted of two large abandoned buildings and railroad ties/line no longer in use Site located only yards away from densely populated residential neighborhood Primary concerns raised by state legislators related to asbestos and other airborne contaminants impacting health of nearby residents


Somerville Continued

In response, MDPH/BEH used data from the MA portal and determined that respiratory and cardiovascular disease rates were higher in this area. MDPH then reviewed plans for railroad tie removal and building demolitions to ensure that best practices were implemented during removal/demolition to minimize offsite dust migration MDPH/BEH also reviewed developer plans to conduct continuous air monitoring before and during demolition activities to ensure no offsite migration of contaminants


Somerville Continued
• Photograph shows site today; railroad bed on one side of site cleared and ready for bike path development. Bike path also leads to MBTA subway system; buildings have been demolished and site is ready for residential development


V. Summary

Evaluating health concerns related to potential environmental exposure opportunities in EJ communities should not be an "additional" set of activities but rather, should be a routine and everyday part of environmental public health programs
It is important to identify and use local level health and environmental data to better inform local policy or regulatory decisions

CDC’s National Environmental Public Health Tracking program aims to support state and city health departments in providing ready public access to local health and environmental data through funding EPHT portals, such as that of MA