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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soundoff (7 Responses)
  1. Lauren R. Wheeling, WV

    There was a plastics company that was upwind of my parents home, and I remember my mother talking about this place, Poly-Rez (no longer in business) becasue of the smells associated with them. When the EPA banned them from "venting", they started "venting" at night. That's the summer I woke up a couple times a week so sick to my stomach from the smell I didn't always make it to the bathroom. I was around 10 years old. After they were shut down, I never got the sickies at night again, but I worry about whatthe heck it was that was "vented'.

    Also there was a neighbor who burned railroad ties in his fireplace. My mother used to complain about the smell (off her bedroom). She was a chemist, so she knew exactly how scary the situation was. She also died from lung cancer a few years after the neighbor started doing this.

    July 7, 2009 at 15:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Justin Smith

    I developed Asthma, Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and Osteoarthritis during Christmas of 1998. I live in Indiana. My parents live in Florida, THEY have developed Asthma also. There is no family history of Asthma. Incidences of Asthma have sky rocketed. Iinstead of making corporations clean up the air, the Government allows corporations to, instead, make money selling meds for Asthma. They make us sick and then make money off of our sickness.

    July 8, 2009 at 12:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. nug

    I grew up next door to an oil refinery. Every day at 5p.m. the refinery would pump out a smoke that smelled like sulfur. The odor stayed in the air for hours. I've always wondered what effect that may have had on my and others' health. I'll definately check out the tracking on the CDC site.

    July 9, 2009 at 12:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Joe

    It is easy to judge things by the smells they produce however we should take precautions so as not to become the "miasamists" of old. In 19th century london the cholera plagues were thought to be due to the "miasma" or bad smell that hung in the air of london. In order to counteract this public health care policies were enacted which did not only did not solve the problem of cholera, which is actually transmitted via contaminated water, but rather they exacerbated the problem with their policies. A tool like this new environmental tool may be excellent at providing information but we must not lose sight of the bigger picture and make the mistakes of the past.

    July 12, 2009 at 02:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Linda C Spencer

    I am writing concerning our health. The county and White Oak Plantation in Nassau County Florida put coalfire ash on the road . We are dying from this ash dust it's unbeardable down I'm down with all kinds of stuff. Have no insurance but have tried to report this for over 3 years. My grandson plays out he has to go to the doctor. 3 people next door are now on the inhalers never was sick in their lives so can you help me with this by who do I get help from.

    July 22, 2009 at 12:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Olive

    That was very well written.

    July 22, 2009 at 12:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Olive


    July 22, 2009 at 12:33 | Report abuse | Reply

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