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A Healthier Future for West Virginia - Healthy People 2010
Federal 2010 Initiative
8 - Environmental Health
BackgroundMany environmental factors have been identified that impact human health in West Virginia. In choosing environmental objectives for the year 2010, the environmental health work group concentrated on eight areas of concern. Of these eight broad areas, childhood lead poisoning was chosen as the highest priority. The blood lead levels of children up to five years of age must be reduced to the lowest possible levels to prevent the consequences of this environmental contaminant.
The citizens of West Virginia must also be provided with safe drinking water. Directly or indirectly, four of the 14 objectives address safe drinking water needs. Of the 1.8 million citizens of West Virginia, 1.3 million are currently served by public water. Unfortunately, all of these public water supplies do not meet the current water quality standards. It has been estimated that $868 million will be needed within the next five years to bring these public water systems into compliance and to provide new or extended services to the state's citizens. An additional $2 billion is needed to address wastewater problems, which only compound the state's water quality problems. Discharge from intensive livestock production areas is causing great concern. The increase of livestock production in West Virginia's Eastern Panhandle has a potential for impacting water quality there.
Indoor air quality is associated with three of the 2010 objectives. Radon gas, which is undetectable without specific tests, has been linked to lung cancer in nonsmokers. Only 3% of West Virginia homes have been tested for radon gas to date. Testing of many more homes must be accomplished within the next 10 years so that homeowners and their families are protected from radon and its harmful consequences.
Secondhand tobacco smoke exposes the nonsmoker to tobacco's constituents,
which are responsible for respiratory disease, cardiovascular disease,
and lung cancer. The passage of clean indoor air regulations by all counties
in West Virginia can provide protection from such exposure.
Every year several West Virginians are treated or die as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning. We must educate the public concerning carbon monoxide to reduce these deaths and poisonings.
These environmental health issues have been receiving increased scrutiny throughout the past several years. Many agencies from separate segments of state government, environmental groups, and private citizens are involved in the business of protecting the public from environmental hazards. Only through cooperation will goals be achieved.Top of Page
Data Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES); West Virginia Bureau for Public Health (WVBPH), Office of Maternal, Child, and Family Health (OMCFH), reportable childhood disease data; WVBPH, Office of Epidemiology and Health Promotion (OEHP), Health Statistics Center (HSC)
Lead poses a serious environmental threat because of its toxic effect on the various body systems. This hazard is greatly magnified in children, especially those aged one to five. At these ages, the child's rapidly developing body systems are more susceptible to the toxic effects produced by an exposure to lead. The prevalence of blood lead levels in the one to five age group has been reduced over the past few years, according to the CDC's National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. The NHANES III survey estimates that 2.2% of all children aged one to five have blood lead levels of 10 g/dL or greater. Using statistics provided by the WVBPH's Health Statistics Center (HSC), an estimated 102,825 children in the state have a potential for exposure, with approximately 2,262 having blood lead levels of 10 g/dL or greater.
OBJECTIVE 8.2. Increase to 50% the number of homes built before 1950 in which testing for lead-based paint has been performed as a means to reducing childhood lead poisoning. (Baseline: 9% of homes tested in 1993)
Data Source: CDC, National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), National Health Interview Survey (NHIS); WVBPH, Office of Environmental Health Services (OEHS)
Lead paint found in older housing is believed to be the main source of environmental lead exposure for children in the home. The incidence of high blood lead levels disproportionally affects the lower income families who occupy the older homes, with minority children at high risk. Older homes must be tested to identify sources of lead to mitigate the health hazard. Testing for lead-based paint in these homes will require an increase in manpower. As of 1993, 9% of the homes had been tested.
Data Sources: Existing EPA Potable Water Surveillance System (PWSS)/Safe Drinking Water Information System (SDWIS); WVPBH, Office of Environmental Health Services (OEHS), Division of Environmental Engineering
The 1.8 million residents of West Virginia must have potable drinking water to remain healthy. The Safe Drinking Water Act mandates that all public water systems, whether obtained from ground or surface supplies, must provide potable water to their customers. Approximately 1.3 million West Virginians are currently served by public water systems. Of these, not all are providing water that meets the standards established under the Safe Drinking Water Act. These systems need to be upgraded to the minimum standards to protect the public health. Additional citizens who lack a source of potable water need to gain access to public supplies or attach to new systems to meet their lack of service.
Data Sources: Clean Water Act Reports, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Intense livestock production has been implicated in the creation of a problem with psyteria in the Eastern Panhandle streams. Control of runoff from these livestock areas will be necessary to maintain the water quality in this area of the state.
Data Sources: Infrastructure Council, West Virginia Division of Environmental Protection (WVDEP) data, sewer construction grants program
Seventy-two percent (72%) of West Virginia residents were served by approved sewage disposal systems in 1999. It has been estimated that it will take $2 billion to make all necessary improvements to serve all state residents. The reduction of infectious and parasitic diseases can be enhanced by increasing the number of citizens who have approved sewage disposal. In addition, wastewater from population areas, industries, and intense livestock production operations are creating a deleterious effect on water use for recreational as well as surface supplies downstream from their discharge. These discharges greatly increase the potential for disease if the effluents are not properly treated.
OBJECTIVE 8.6. Maintain the average number of outbreaks of waterborne
disease arising from water intended for drinking to no more than .5 per
Data Sources: EPA,Clean Water Act reports; WVBPH, OEHS, sanitarian monthly reports
Data Sources: National Water Quality Monitoring Program; contaminant data in fish, sediment, and water, fish health, or biomarker metrics (U.S. Geologic Survey, Water Resources Division); state fish contamination survey data sets; States and Regional Agency assessment data, WVDEP Tri database.
Watersheds within the state have been contaminated by wastes from industry discharges and waste disposal sites. The chemical industry has in the past disposed of waste in landfills across the area. These disposal sites are now leaking chemicals into the watershed. One of the main concerns for the West Virginia Division of Environmental Protection involves dioxins and furans, long-lived chemicals that have been associated with cancer at extremely low concentrations. The exposure to these chemicals should be minimized. Fish consumption advisories have been issued in the past for the Kanawha River. Anglers have been warned not to eat bottom dwelling fish because these fish bio-accumulate contaminants such as dioxins.
Data Source: WVBPH, OEHS, Radon Program database
Radon gas, a natural decay product of uranium found in most soils, is believed to cause several thousand cases of lung cancer annually in nonsmokers across the nation. This colorless and odorless gas can remain undetected, especially during the heating season. It gains entrance into structures via minute cracks in basements or from wells in the soil under the home. Several areas in West Virginia have been identified as hot spots for radon. With only 3% of the homes in West Virginia tested for radon to date, however, few citizens know if they are at risk for exposure. All residences in the state need be tested to prevent the occupants from exposure to this potential carcinogen.
A recent law makes it mandatory for all laboratories doing radon testing to report to the Radiation, Toxics, and Indoor Air Division of the Office of Environmental Health. This law will greatly increase the data available to this division.
OBJECTIVE 8.10. Reduce the prevalence of respiratory disease, cardiovascular disease, and cancer resulting from exposure to tobacco smoke by increasing to 100% the number of counties with clean indoor air regulations. (Baseline: 41 of 55 counties had regulations in 1999)
Data Sources: WVBPH, OEHP, West Virginia Tobacco Prevention Program; Coalition for a Tobacco-Free WV
According to the Coalition for a Tobacco-Free West Virginia, exposure to secondhand smoke in public buildings poses a serious threat to human health. As of 1999, 41 of West Virginia's 55 counties had clean indoor air regulations to protect the nonsmoking public.
Data Source: National Vital Statistics System (NVSS), CDC; NCHS; Hospital discharge reports; WVBPH, OEHP, HSC
Carbon monoxide is another toxic gas that causes 200 deaths and about 5,000 injuries per year across the United States. The incidence of carbon monoxide poisonings in the home must be reduced to the minimum, if not eliminated.
Data Sources: Bicycle Federation of America, FHA; National Personal Transportation Survey (NPTS) conducted every 5 years, U.S. Census.
Improving the air quality in West Virginia is a effort to which every citizen can contribute. By becoming less dependant on vehicles for short trips, we can eliminate emissions. Bicycling, walking, and using mass transit systems will all reduce nitrous oxide discharges. Increasing the use of the computer can also help reduce emissions. Telecommuting allows one to work at home instead of driving to a workplace. The incorporation of these ideas can go a long way to improving our air quality.
Data Source: WVDEP, Office of Air Quality
All West Virginians must have clean air that meets or exceeds the minimum federal air quality standards. Sources of air pollution must be minimized. Stationary sources must employ technologies to minimize impact on this vital resource. Many state citizens suffer from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and can detect even minute changes in the quality of the air they breathe.
Data Sources: EPA; WVDEP, Office of Waste Management; WVDEP Office of Public Information, tonnage reports.
The reduction of solid waste disposed of in our landfills will benefit us all. Not only will we lengthen the life of our landfills but we will reduce energy costs and pollution by requiring fewer trips by the waste collectors. We will also reduce any future need to export waste where it may be incinerated. The average amount of solid waste generated in West Virginia is 4.0 pounds per person per day, below the national average. We need to maintain this level or try to reduce it; more recycling could assist in this area. The challenge, however, is to make recycling affordable. Approximately 45% of the waste (paper, glass, plastics, and metals) currently going into our landfills could be recycled. Recycling saves energy, which reduces the need for additional generation that contributes to air pollution.Top of Page
Meeting the Objectives
Health Promotion Channels for Achieving Objectives:
Meeting the environmental objectives in this document will require the cooperation of many agencies, groups, and individuals. The regulation and protection of environmental resources are fragmented between several state agencies and offices within West Virginia. All agencies involved must coordinate their efforts toward these common goals for them to be reached or maintained. The West Virginia Division of Environmental Protection has primary responsibility for solid waste, hazardous waste, air quality, and wastewater issues. The West Virginia Bureau for Public Health has primary responsibility for drinking water, indoor air, childhood lead poisoning, radon, recreational water use, healthy behaviors, and clean indoor air. The Department of Agriculture has the lead in issues related to intense livestock production.
We must employ all resources at our disposal to work toward our objectives.
One resource, which is just now becoming readily available, is the Geographical
Information Systems (GIS) employed by the Office of Environmental Health
and the Division of Environmental Protection. Using GIS technology to
layer information concerning sewage discharges, water intakes, well locations,
disease outbreaks, high childhood blood lead levels, pollution sources,
areas served by public sewage and water systems, radon testing, homes
tested for lead paint, contaminated watersheds, hazardous waste sites,
and many more, we can for the first time see the big picture. This could
enable us to foresee the future, preventing disease with better efficiency
and conserving our natural resources for future generations.
Work Group Members
Joseph A. Wyatt, RS, Work Group Leader, Assistant Director, Public
Health Sanitation Division, WVBPH
CDC. "Update on Blood Lead Levels." Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Vol. 46, No. 7; 141. (February 21, 1997).
CDC. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Series 1, No. 32, 1994.
"Characterization of municipal solid waste." ISAPI.
EPA530-S-98-007 (May 1998).
GAI. "Solid waste characterization study for Watershed F and Watershed H in West Virginia." Solid Waste Management Board Project 95-569-01.
"Geographic information systems- their use in environmental epidemiologic research." Journal of Environmental Health. Vol. 61, No. 3. (October 1998).
Public Health Sanitation Division
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This page was last updated June 13, 2001.