Importance of Natural Resources

NCEH/ATSDR: Your Health, Your Environment


[Voice Over] The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Environmental Health and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry are dedicated to a single mission: keeping Americans safe from threats that begin with the very things that we need most in order to live: air, water, food, and our homes. [Chris Portier, Director, NCEH/ATSDR, CDC] The environment is your health – Our job is to make sure that those environments are healthy for you so that you have clean water – clean air – safe food and a safe shelter to live in – those are the important aspects of the environment and they play a big role in your health. [Voice Over] It’s NCEH/ATSDR’s job to be on alert and to use the best science, the latest research, and the most skilled public health professionals to find those threats and help people cope with them. For example, poor air quality can have a major impact on health. It can worsen heart disease, and it can trigger asthma, a chronic disease that affects the lungs, making it difficult to breath. [Paul Garbe, Branch Chief, National Asthma Control Program, CDC] Almost 25 million people in the United States have asthma and of those almost 12 million have had an asthma attack in the last year. An asthma attack is something that will come on suddenly. People may be sensitive to things that are around them. There are asthma triggers that can cause an asthma attack and when you have an attack you have a difficult time breathing. People will need to use a medication that we call a quick relief medication to open up their lungs so that they have an easier time to breathe. [Voice Over] Just as the last bell rang at school in January 2001, 10–year–old Kellen Bolden, Rhonda Mitchell’s son, had a fatal asthma attack. [Rhonda Mitchell] Kellen was at Point South Elementary in Clayton County and he had his inhaler that day – but the rule was that you had to get to the nurse to get permission to use the inhaler. Well he was a very obedient child so he didn’t take his inhaler out and he was trying to make it to the office but before he could get there he collapsed and he didn’t get a chance to use it. From that day on it was important to me to say something to the world – that when you can’t breathe nothing else matters and he really needed to have that and after Kellen’s death I thought long and hard about it and I thought – that should be something that I can do or we can do. So with the American Lung Association and Senator Gloria Butler and the CDC we came up with a plan to get this bill that we had for Kellen implemented. And the bill was passed . [Voice Over] CDC’s National Asthma Control Program and its partners have worked with legislators to pass laws allowing children with asthma to carry & use their own medication at school. Today, all 50 states have passed similar laws, saving children’s lives across the nation. [Dr. Chris Portier] The asthmas control program is very successful – not only is the asthma control program keeping children from having asthma attacks keeping them out of the hospital and in many cases keeping them from being killed but it’s also an effective program in terms of cost for every dollar we spend in the asthma control program we estimate we save up to $35 in medical costs for people in the United States. [Voice Over] Clean water is an issue for the community of Pavillion, Wyoming – residents suspected their water supply was contaminated as a result of industrial processes. These are the kinds health concerns ATSDR responds to across the nation. [David Dorian, Regional Representative, ATSDR] In 2010 the Environmental Protection Agency asked ATSDR to evaluate data that had been collected during well sampling here in Pavilion Wyoming and this began ATSDR’s involvement with the site. We began by talking with community members about what their concerns were and providing a technical evaluation of the public health implications of the data set. [Dr. Chris Portier] There’s methane gas in the water and in the soil. So when you bring water out of the faucet it could potentially ignite and cause a fire – so that is a safety hazard and then within the water itself we saw heavy mixtures of salts – they can increase blood pressure and there are other types of health concerns – then there are other compounds that appear in the water supply that could have potentially long term affects that we don’t quite know yet. [Voice Over] ATSDR worked with the community to analyse data and equip the community with tools to protect their health. [John Fenton, Resident, Pavillion, Wyoming ]We had a couple of the doctors – Michelle Waters and Chris Poulet come to our homes – they sat down and went through our test results with us and answered the questions we had in regards to what we were seeing in our water and how it could affect our health. They are the ones who made the recommendation that we needed an alternate source of drinking and cooking water. [Voice Over] Bottled drinking and cooking water is now delivered to residents and they are advised to ventilate shower areas and washing machine areas to prevent explosions from the high levels of methane present in their water supply. [Louis Meeks, Resident, Pavillion, Wyoming ] The ATSDR they’ve been at every meeting to make sure that everything is going alright and there is no more bad health problems and everything else – we sure appreciate that. To have someone care for us people means a lot to us and I’ve never seen such professionals – I don’t think we could do without them. [David Dorian] Communities here like Pavilion with concerns about their drinking water often feel alone or isolated. They don’t have the technical expertise and the access to physicians and to public health experts that would allow them to make good personal decisions about whether or not they want to drink their water and to be able to plan for the future. So this is why it’s important for the Agency For Toxic Substances Disease Registry to be engaged with communities such as Pavilion. [Dr. Chris Portier] The National Center For Environmental Health has an environmental public health laboratory that is the best environmental public health laboratory in the world. They do bio-monitoring – looking for chemicals in your body to tell you how much chemical there is. [Jim Pirkle, Director, Division of Laboratory Sciences, NCEH, CDC] The biggest success story we’ve had was that data from our laboratory was instrumental in helping to remove lead from gasoline. Based on calculations done from levels in air and soil and water it was thought that lead in gasoline only had a small effect of people’s lead levels – but we actually measured lead in people while we were changing some lead in gasoline in the nation and saw a very tight correlation and the EPA used this data to justify removal of lead from gasoline. That was very big. [Dr. Chris Portier] The NCEH activities are incredible activities – their lead poisoning program prevents lead poisoning across the entire United States. We estimated a savings in health care costs for the last 10 years are about $8 billion. These are extrordinarily effective programs. The laboratory program on bio-monitoring when it was first started was able to look at about 55 / 60 chemicals in people’s blood and urine – now we‘re able to look at about 500 and it creates the national debate on what we are exposed to – simply by the magnitude of it and the quality of the work that’s done there. All of these programs have a big impact on people in their homes.


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