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Health Assessment, Consultation & Education

Health Consultations

A health consultation by the Health Assessment, Consultation & Education (HACE) program is an evaluation of the sampling data collected at a hazardous waste site. The data are evaluated to determine whether exposures to chemicals found at the site might cause harmful human health effects. The health assessor who prepares the health consultation looks at past, present and future exposures. Once the evaluation is completed, the health consultation will have specific recommendations on how to protect public health.

The sources of information used to evaluate a site include:

  • Environmental data – information on chemicals found at the site. The N.C. Division of Public Health does not collect environmental data directly; most data comes from other agencies.
  • Exposure data - how people come in contact with chemicals at the site.
  • Health data – information on exposure effects (toxicology) and community-wide rates of disease compared with national and state rates.
  • Community health concerns – information from community members about how the site affects their health or quality of life.

After analyzing all environmental and health site data, a health consultation should answer these questions:

  • Where is the site located?
  • Who has used the site?
  • What activities have taken place at the site?
  • What are the levels of chemicals found?
  • How might people come in contact with the chemicals (exposure pathways)?
  • How might the chemicals affect the public's health?
  • Would living or working near the site affect health?
  • What can be done to protect the public's health?

Who conducts health consultations?

The North Carolina Division of Public Health has a cooperative agreement with the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, a federal public health agency, to conduct assessments of hazardous waste sites in North Carolina. The N.C. Division of Public Health (N.C. DPH) has formed a team, made up of a principal investigator, community health educator, and a health assessor, to determine possible public health problems caused by chemicals released into the environment at hazardous waste sites around the state.

Other health consultation activities

Depending on the conclusions of the health consultation, other activities may be performed or recommended:

  • Community involvement involves the community through public meetings, health fairs, public awareness notices, etc.
  • Education for the public or for health care providers. For example, education may include special training sessions at hospitals for doctors and nurses, or development and distribution of fact sheets to affected community members. Specific educational activities for each site are planned based on public health concerns and potential health effects.
  • Health studies are specific studies of people living near or working at the site being evaluated. Health studies often make use of past health records, medical tests and surveys. A health consultation may recommend conducting a health study.
  • Research. Sometimes we do not know enough about the health effects of a hazardous chemical. A health consultation may recommend that additional studies or chemical-specific research be done.
  • Cleanup. All staff work closely with environmental agencies, recommending cleanup actions, reviewing cleanup plans, and communicating risks and protective measures to impacted residents.

Community involvement

We want to hear from people who live near or work at a site we are evaluating. Input from local community members helps to identify:

  • how the site may have affected the public's health;
  • what health effects people in the community are concerned about; and
  • what the community thinks about the cleanup process.

How is the health consultation used?

The health consultation conclusions identify whether there is a public health hazard associated with site-related chemical exposures. Based on our conclusions, we make recommendations that advise federal, state and local agencies on actions to prevent or reduce the public's exposure to any hazardous chemicals released at those sites. The health consultation also presents protective measures, or actions, that affected community members can take to protect their own health.

For Additional Information