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environmental health


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Marcellus Shale Homepage  /  Environmental Public Health Tracking  Health Assessment Program

How The World We Live In Affects Our Health...                                  
Environmental health examines how different environments affect a person’s well-being. The health effects of breathing air or drinking water; living near
abandoned toxic waste sites; being exposed to substances such as lead, arsenic, pesticides and heavy metals; are all researched in relation to specific sites
where there may be cause for concern. The Department of Health (DOH) environmental health staff members work closely with federal, state, county, local officials and the public on a regular basis to help address environmental health issues and concerns.
Many residents have expressed concern with the impact of environmental factors on their health, including from natural resource extraction such as natural gas. While the DOH does not provide primary health care services, it does provide advice based on the nature of the complaint and works closely with the individual who filed the complaint and, if they agree, with their health care providers to address their health concerns.
Citizens need to know that, in matters of environmental concern, DOH is not a regulatory agency. These concerns are primarily managed by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) or, on a national level, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

 How to Report Environmental Concerns
If you have an environmental health concern, the tips below are intended to help us address your concern in the most efficient way possible. Please be patient, as  environmental health concerns often include many variables and take time to investigate and to conduct a health evaluation. However, by having the following things in place before you file your complaint, you can help expedite the department’s response:
                  - Visit your healthcare provider or doctor first. Have them examine you for your health concern, as they know your health
                    history best. Get a copy of your medical records, and be prepared to share them with DOH. If your doctor would like to 
                    discuss with us your health issues, we are available.
                  - Have environmental test results available. Be prepared to share any environmental tests results with DOH such as
                    water, soil or air testing results. Please see the following section for specific requirements before submitting your results.
                  Be prepared to speak about your family’s current health and health history. If your family is willing to provide health
                    records, get permission from them to share those records before calling DOH
                  - The more specific you can be, the better we can serve you. Be prepared to talk about your symptoms. If your concerns
                     are about specific contaminants, be prepared to share with us details such as: how you are exposed to such contaminants
                     and for how long, your proximity to those contaminants, and any changes you’ve seen in your health since your exposure
                     to the contaminants, etc.

Requirements for Submitting Environmental Test Results
If an institution or a resident of Pennsylvania needs DOH's evaluation of environmental sampling data, the following conditions must be met prior to 
sending the data to DOH:
                   - Environmental sampling and analysis must have been conducted by a laboratory certified by DEP.
                   - A laboratory report must be made available with data quality assurance (QA) and quality control (QC) performed.
                   - A summary table, along with raw data, must be made available.
                   - All test results must be reported in proper units.
                            - Water: ppb, ppm, µg/L or mg/L 
                            - Air: µg/m3 or ppb
                            - Soil: µg/kg or mg/k
                   - Results will be accepted by email, mail, or fax.
If the above conditions are met, DOH will analyze the data and will respond with a written report.
 How Does the Department of Health Handle Environmental Health Concerns?
Environmental health complaints are reported to DOH’s Bureau of Epidemiology where they are reviewed and investigated, data is collected and analyzed and a formal response is provided directly to the individual who filed the complaint, regardless of the nature of the complaint. At times we request additional information from callers to help us in our investigation e.g. water samples or health records. If environmental sampling data is not available for review, we will work with DEP to collect data, when indicated and as appropriate. A lack of environmental sampling data may limit the department’s ability to conduct a thorough investigation.


Depending on the nature of the complaint, DOH environmental health staff members work closely with federal, state, county, local officials and the public on a regular basis to help address environmental health issues and concerns throughout the commonwealth. 


 How Do I know if I Should Report a Complaint to DEP or DOH?
DEP works to protect the state’s air, land and water from pollution and ensure a clean environment. If your concern involves drinking water or the waterways, air quality issues or potential soil pollution, the DEP is the agency to which you direct your complaint or questions. Additionally, DEP takes reports of spills, accidents and other releases of hazardous substances and contaminants. The DEP will test the air, water or soil to determine if there is a problem.
DOH environmental health examines how different environments affect a person’s
well-being. The health effects of breathing air, drinking water and more are researched in relation to specific sites where they are reviewed and investigated. If you have a concern that is specific to your health or the health of a family member or friend, which may be caused by the air, water or soil, your complaint should be directed to the DOH’s Bureau of Epidemiology (BOE).
To file an environmental health concern, please contact the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Division of Environmental Health Epidemiology