Protecting Public Health
While Brownfields generally are considered sites that pose no or limited health risks to communities, many have contamination that requires some form of cleanup, cap and engineering or institutional controls that restrict land use to prevent environmental or human exposures. In addition, in many communities, brownfields may have broader health impacts of concern to the community too, including
- Safety. Abandoned and derelict structures, open foundations, other infrastructure or equipment that may be compromised due to lack of maintenance, vandalism, deterioration, controlled substance contaminated sites (i.e., methamphetamine labs), or abandoned mine sites may all pose safety risks.
- Social and economic factors. Blight, crime, vagrancy, reduced social capital or community 'connectedness', reductions in the local government tax base, and private property values that may reduce social services are all social and economic problems sometimes created by brownfields.
- Environmental health. Potential environmental dangers can be biological, physical, or chemical, and can be the result of site contamination, groundwater impacts, surface runoff, migration of contaminants, or wastes dumped on site.
Communities concerned about any potential impact of brownfields on public health may want to work with their local, state or tribal health agency as part of their brownfield program activities.
Brownfields, Public Health and Health Monitoring (PDF) (4 pp, 1.5M)
Improving Public Health in Brownfields Communities-Success Story
Brownfields and Public Health Are Linked in Many Respects (PDF) (4 pp, 188K)
For information on the activities of EPA partners and community organizations working to improve public health as part of brownfields assessment, cleanup and redevelopment, please see the following links:
- Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR)
Communities and state and local health agencies can seek information or request technical support and assistance from ATSDR staff and their contractors on risk assessment and risk communication; health assessments and health consultations; and other technical support through the ATSDR.
- American Planning Association (APA)
Resources to support collaboration between land use and transportation planners and public health officials on issues of shared concern. For additional resources, please see the Research section.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Information on public health practice can be found on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Web site at: http://www.cdc.gov/phpr/science.htm For more information about the healthy places initiative of the CDC, please visit: http://www.cdc.gov/healthyplaces/
- Environmental Law Institute (ELI)
For general information about ELI, please visit: http://www.eli.org The Brownfields Center of ELI assembles valuable information for communities regarding assessment and cleanup of brownfields, as well as opportunities for public health improvements. For more information about these and other activities, please visit: http://www.brownfieldscenter.org/small/about.shtml
- The Safety and Health Topics: Brownfields (Recycling/Industrial and Commercial Properties) page addresses worker
health and safety at brownfields. It provides Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) compliance information and links
to tools for identifying, evaluating, and controlling employee exposures to hazardous substances.
- National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO)
Provides resources, tools, and training to support improvements in environmental health and to better integrate local health department officials in the initial stages of land use planning process.
- National Association of Local Boards of Health (NALBOH)
Resources that support local boards of health and their efforts to improve environmental health practice and involve health professionals in local land use planning decisions.
- The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) conducts basic research on
environmental health and environment-related diseases. This listing consists of information on a variety of environmental health
topics, including answers to some common environmental questions.
- The Waste and Cleanup Risk Assessment site provides information about EPA's waste and cleanup
risk assessment programs. In addition, the site contains a risk assessment glossary, localized information for all EPA Regions, and
other general-interest Risk Assessment information.
- Health Impact Assessment (HIA) is a tool for local communities and state and tribal governments to create healthy communities. For more information, please see the following:
- The Healthy Development Measurement Tool (HDMT) was developed by the San Francisco Department of Public Health, Environmental Health Section to help communities and other stakeholders consider how development decisions may have impacts on health. To get background on the health impact assessment process or copies of this tool, visit this website.
Design for Brownfield Redevelopment and Land Revitalization
Improving Public Health
Brownfield assessment and cleanup activities protect public health by removing and reducing contaminant exposures and public health threats. Communities may also want to plan how reuse, redevelopment and land revitalization can improve public health. Design choices that create or expand parks, bike trails or recreational areas can improve the environment and increase physical activity or additional of a supermarket or farmer's market can improve access to healthy food where those amenities may not be available. A redevelopment plan that adds a community health center, pharmacy, other healthcare service provider as part of redevelopment can increasing access to health care services in brownfield communities.