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July 7th, 2009
10:14 AM ET

CDC launches environmental health site

By David S. Martin
CNN Medical Senior Producer

If you’re like me, you try to exercise and eat a diet with lots of fruits and vegetables. The hope, of course, is that a healthy lifestyle leads to good health. It doesn’t always work out that way.

There are two things we don’t control when we sit down at the table or head to the gym. The first is our genes. We may have a family history of heart disease or Alzheimer’s. The second is the environment: The air we breathe, the water we drink, chemicals we ingest, all can have a subtle but profound affect on our long-term health.

This year, perhaps as never before, the federal government is recognizing this link between health and the environment.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention today launched the Web-based Environmental Public Health Tracking Network. The site is designed to track links between air and water pollutants and such chronic conditions as asthma, heart disease, cancer and childhood lead poisoning.

As of now, the tracking network only covers 16 states (California, Connecticut, Florida, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin) and New York City.

The CDC plans to add five more sites this summer and hopes to eventually include all 50 states.

The tracking network will help the government respond more quickly to environmental health problems and also improve our understanding of the connection between environment and health, said Dr. Howard Frumkin, director of the CDC’s National Center for Environmental Health, in a news release.

That’s also what prompted the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development to embark on a 21-year study that will follow 100,000 children from the womb to adulthood. The agency began signing up study participants in January.

All this focus on the environment and health is a reminder that while we inhabit a globe, we don’t live in a bubble.

Has the environment ever made you sick?

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