An official website of the United States government.

We've made some changes to EPA.gov. If the information you are looking for is not here, you may be able to find it on the EPA Web Archive or the January 19, 2017 Web Snapshot.

C-FERST

Questions and Answers about C-FERST

General

  • What is C-FERST?
    C-FERST (Community-Focused Exposure and Risk Screening Tool) is an online tool developed by EPA in collaboration with stakeholders to provide access to resources that can be used with communities to help identify and learn more about their environmental health issues and explore exposure and risk reduction options. There are several components to C-FERST that allow users to
    • view maps of a community’s environmental and demographic characteristics
    • compare community environmental conditions
    • explore and learn about environmental issues and exposure and risk reduction options
    • plan local projects using community assessment guides
    • find out more about C-FERST and participate in the C-FERST User Forum
  • Who can or should use C-FERST?
    C-FERST is intended to serve the needs of a broad range of users, including the general public, environmental and public health professionals, state and local risk assessors, state and local environmental and public health agencies, EPA community involvement coordinators and environmental justice coordinators, and academic institutions serving local communities. Community groups or individuals and environmental health professionals may benefit from working together to learn about the community, identify and explore local issues, and interpret C-FERST data and results. Some technical experience in viewing and interpreting Geographic Information Systems (GIS) mapping software is helpful.
  • What can I use C-FERST for?
    C-FERST can be used with communities to help identify and learn more about their environmental issues and explore exposure and risk reduction options. There are several components to C-FERST that allow users to
    • view maps of a community’s environment and demographic characteristics 
    • compare community environmental conditions
    • explore and learn about environmental issues, exposure and risk reduction options, and related community projects
    • plan projects with community assessment guides
    • find out more about C-FERST and participate in the C-FERST User Forum

    Due to limitations in the data and information in C-FERST, it should not be used as the sole basis for making decisions about public health.

    Please contact us to let us know how you have used C-FERST or how you think you might use it in the future. In addition, please provide your recommendations for additional information sources (with links, if available), data and map layers, or features that would make C-FERST more useful in meeting your needs. Feedback from the user community will increase our understanding about how C-FERST data and tools benefit individuals and communities and will help guide the development of future versions and relevant new tools and data.
  • Do I need any special expertise or special software to use C-FERST?
    C-FERST is available to anybody with a computer and an internet connection. No special software is needed, however high-speed internet access is recommended for best performance of the tool. When using C-FERST Maps we recommend using the latest versions of the suggested browsers listed on the ArcGIS Online website. Community groups or members of the public and environmental health professionals, experienced risk assessors, EPA community project leads, and local academic institutions may benefit from working together to identify and learn more about the community, identify and explore environmental issues, and interpret C-FERST data and results.
  • What kind of data and information is included in C-FERST? What is not included?
    C-FERST contains data and information on
    • sources of pollution
    • environmental concentrations
    • estimated exposures and risks
    • demographic and community characteristics

    C-FERST also has information on
    • exposure and risk reduction options
    • community and tribal projects
    • planning projects using community guides
    • citizen science
    • methods for measuring environmental conditions

    C-FERST primarily relies on nationally available monitoring and modeling data. Since air pollution monitoring data and models are routinely developed at a national level, these data are more complete in C-FERST than data and models for other pollutants that may be found in water and soil. C-FERST does not currently contain local-scale health outcome information. See the C-FERST Limitations page for more information.
  • Where else can I look for community environmental health information and data?
    Other EPA tools such as EJSCREEN, EnviroAtlas and NEPAssist can provide additional environmental information. Other federal agencies such as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Food and Drug Administration and U.S. Geological Survey also have data, tools and information related to health and environmental issues. State and local public health and environmental agencies, universities and research institutions may be valuable sources of local data.
  • Can C-FERST be used as the basis for making regulatory or public health decisions?
    No. C-FERST is intended to provide screening-level information only to help users learn about community environmental health issues. It does not re-calculate risk values and is not intended to be the sole basis for any public health decision.
  • Does C-FERST calculate cumulative risks or impacts?
    Although C-FERST offers multimedia environmental data and demographic data, it does not add together or otherwise calculate cumulative risks for different environmental exposures. C-FERST does provide access to estimated cumulative cancer and non-cancer risks from exposure to hazardous outdoor air pollutants, as calculated by the 2011 National Air Toxics Assessment.  C-FERST also includes information about population characteristics, so users can explore where environmental sources and higher environmental concentrations are located in relation to communities.  This information in C-FERST might help users to identify issues and explore these further, but C-FERST does not calculate cumulative risk or impacts.
  • Who can I contact with questions or feedback on C-FERST?
    Your feedback is very important to us and will help us improve and expand C-FERST. Feedback from the user community will increase our understanding about how C-FERST data and tools benefit individuals and communities and will help guide the development of future versions and relevant new tools and data. Please visit the C-FERST User Forum to get involved and contribute to discussions by asking questions or by sharing your experiences.  You can also visit the contact us page to provide comments, questions or suggestions.

Top of Page

Maps

  • What is a map layer? What kind of map layers does C-FERST have?
    A map layer is information that can be added to and viewed on a map. It could be a point or line segment that identifies a location or a route, such as a school, road, or shaded area. Often, there are underlying values for locations, such as one representing estimated concentration of a pollutant in a census tract.

    C-FERST Maps displays map layers for pollutants, regulated facilities, demographics and other key community characteristics, which are described in the list of C-FERST Map Layers. C-FERST does not provide map layers for every environmental issue that may be important to a community. C-FERST should be supplemented with additional information and local knowledge before taking any action to address potential concerns. For more information about the limitations of data in C-FERST, please see the C-FERST Limitations page.

  • Where do C-FERST map layers come from?
    The map layers displayed in C-FERST are developed from EPA and other Federal Agency data sources, as described in the list of C-FERST Map layers. They are available to the public through EPA’s Environmental Dataset Gateway (EDG) and Data.gov. Some of the data and map layers are also available from EPA’s My Environment.
  • How were these map layers chosen?
    The map layers chosen for C-FERST maps include community and environmental issues for which we have national data at sufficient geographic resolution on EPA's Geoplatform. Additional map layers that meet this criterion will continue to be added as they become available.
     
    Other types of information, either not available at the community level (e.g., radon) or not available nationwide (e.g., local health data or local drinking water quality data), can be overlaid on C-FERST map layers by adding the relevant geospatial map layers to the maps. 
  • What are the browser requirements for C-FERST maps?
    C-FERST maps are displayed in an ArcGIS Online viewer. For the best performance use the latest versions of the suggested browsers listed on the ArcGIS Online website. 
  • How do I view a map layer in C-FERST?
    To view the menu of C-FERST Map layers, click the map contents button on the left side of the map. Each of the listed map services contains several map layers within it. Click the name of the map service, and the list of map layers will appear below it. To select or turn on a map layer (or several layers), click the check box next to the name of the layer AND the check box next to the name of the map service.
     
    The checkboxes for both the individual map layer and the map service must be checked for the individual map layers to be displayed.
     
    Different map services are displayed at different spatial scales. You will need to zoom in closer to view some layers (these are shown with gray text on the list). You can view layers independently or overlay multiple layers at a time. You may need to adjust the transparency to view multiple layers at the same time:  first click the down arrow that appears to the right of the layer name, then click "Transparency" and a sliding scale will appear to adjust the transparency of the layer.  

These maps should not be used to establish causal relationships, although overlaying different types of information on maps may suggest some questions that you want to look into further.  

  • How do I navigate the C-FERST Map?
    Start by zooming into your location by typing a location in the upper right search box or by using the zoom buttons on left of map. To move the map around, simply click and hold the mouse button down anywhere on map and drag the map to the desired view.
  • How can I download and find more information about C-FERST layers?
    To view more information about each map layer in C-FERST, click the down arrow that appears to the right of the layer name, then click “Description.” This allows you to view the map metadata description which has links for saving and downloading the map layer. If you would like to save any of the map layers available in C-FERST maps to use later in a desktop ArcGIS or other application, right click on one of the viewing options at the top of the page and click “Save Link as” to save. For more detailed instructions, see the “Save map layers” section in the C-FERST Map User Guide.
  • How can I add data to the C-FERST map?
    To add map layers to C-FERST Maps, first click the “Modify Map” button in the top right corner of the map viewer. This will cause an “Add” button to appear in the left corner of the map viewer. Click the “Add” button and a menu will drop down with several ways users can add data to the maps. For more detailed information see the “Add map layers” section in the C-FERST Map User Guide.
  • How can I adjust the transparency of the map layers?
    To adjust the transparency of the map layers, first click the down arrow that appears to the right of the layer name. This will open the menu of options you can perform on that layer. Click "Transparency" and a sliding scale will appear that adjusts the transparency of the layer so that basemap features like roads are easier to see under the layers that are displayed. See the "View or Modify Map Layer Details" section of the C-FERST Map User Guide.
  • How can I show the map legend?
    To view the legend for all layers that are displayed, click on the legend button, which is the 3rd button under "Details" on the left side of the map. To view the symbol for a single layer, click on the name of that layer and the symbol will drop down below (click again to close). For more detailed instructions see the "View Legend" section in the C-FERST Map User Guide.
  • How can I save or print an image of my map?
    Maps you create in C-FERST are only available during the current session unless you save or print them. To save your map and all of its data online, you must have an ArcGIS Online account.
    To save an image of your map:
    • Use the print feature on your browser to print your map;  
    • Use the "Save As" feature on your browser to save it as a PDF; 
    • Use the "Print Screen" feature on your keyboard to capture the map image on the screen and then paste it into a presentation or document;  
    • Click the "Print" button on the map to create an image with a caption, which you can then print or save as a PDF (Note: You may need to disable your browser’s pop-up blocker).  

    • C-FERST Map User Guide
  • Will data that I add to C-FERST maps be saved?
    Data added to C-FERST maps is not saved to C-FERST or any EPA database. It is only available for the user to view during the current C-FERST session, unless you save your maps to an ArcGIS Online Account.
  • Will data that I add to C-FERST maps be accessible to EPA or other users?
    Data added to the C-FERST maps via the Modify Map/Add Data function will not be accessible to EPA or other users.

Top of Page

Community Data Table

  • What data is in the Community Data Table and where does it come from?
    C-FERST does not provide data on every environmental issue that may be important to a community. C-FERST should be supplemented with additional information and local knowledge before taking any action to address potential concerns. Additional data will be added to the C-FERST Community Data Table in the future as it becomes available.
    The Community Data Table contains data from several sources:
    • Estimated concentration, exposure and risk values for several hazardous air pollutants, as well as estimates of cumulative risks from outdoor air pollutants, are from EPA’s 2011 National Air Toxics Assessment (NATA) and are available at the Census Tract, county, and state. 
    • Demographic indicators are from the 2008-2012 U.S. Census American Community Survey and are available at the county, state and national level.
    • EPA National Air Toxics Assessment (2011)
    • U.S. Census American Community Survey
       
  • How can I download the data in the Community Data Table? [Please note:  This feature is not current working; we plan to have this before the public release.]
    To download your Community Data Table, you can click the “Export to Excel” button at the top of the page. This will create a CSV file which you can save to your computer and open in Excel.

    To download additional raw data direct from the source, you can click the link in the “Data Info” column (last column) in the Community Data Table, which will take you to the source of the data where you can find more extensive information and, in some cases, download additional raw data.
  • How can I find more information about the data in the Community Data Table?
    To find more extensive information about the data in the Community Data Table, click the link in the “Data Info” column (last column). This link will take you to the source of the data where you can find more extensive information and, in some cases, download additional raw data.
  • How can I use the Community Data Table?
    The Community Data Table allows you to compare environmental and demographic data for your community with county and state values, and to improve understanding of local conditions.  Click on the section headings (or the ► beside them) to expand each section of the table:
    ►Environmental Concentration Estimates 
    Human Exposure Estimates 
    ►Health Risk Estimates 
    ►Demographic, Social and Economic Indicators  

    ​​By reading across each row, you can compare the values for your community (Census Tract) with those at county and state level.  Higher (or lower) values in your community may help you identify issues to explore further using C-FERST or other information sources.  
  • How can I add data to the Community Data Table? [Please noteThis feature is not current working; we plan to have this before the public release.]
    To add data to your Community Data table, you first need to save it to your computer by clicking the “Export to Excel” button at the top of the page. This will create a CSV file which you can save to your computer and open in Microsoft Excel. Once you have the file saved on your computer, you can add data to your Excel file. It is not possible to add data to the Community Data Table directly within C-FERST.

Top of Page

Environmental Issue Profiles

  • What is an Environmental Issue Profile? What does it contain?
    An Environmental Issue Profile is a report that contains links and information about a specific environmental or health issues that may be of concern. If data is available for your community, some profiles also contain local estimates of air pollutant concentrations, exposures and risks. The information in these profiles can be used to learn more about an environmental issue, exposure and risk reduction options, or to find out what other communities have done to address it.
    The Issue Profiles have five sections:
    • General Information
    • Sources
    • Environmental Concentrations, Human Exposures, and Health Risks 
    • Exposure and Risk Reduction Options
    • Strategies Implemented by Other Communities

    For more information about what is contained in each section, please see the C-FERST Environmental Issue Profile Category Descriptions.

  • How was the list of issues in C-FERST selected?
    The list of issues for which there are Environmental Issue Profiles in C-FERST was selected in collaboration with stakeholders from the EPA Community Action for a Renewed Environment (CARE) Program and EPA scientists. It includes environmental pollutants, health effects and community issues that were identified as important to communities.

    The list of outdoor air quality issues includes two criteria air pollutants, fine Particulate MatterParticulate MatterSolid or liquid matter that is dispersed in a gas, or insoluble solid matter dispersed in a liquid, that gives a heterogeneous mixture. (PM2.5) and ground-level ozone, and 11 hazardous air pollutants included in the National Air Toxics Assessment. These pollutants were chosen as the hazardous air pollutants with the greatest potential to impact community health.

    C-FERST does not provide Issue Profiles on every environmental issue that may be important to a community. C-FERST should be supplemented with additional information and local knowledge before taking any action to address potential concerns. If there are issues you would like to see added to C-FERST, please contact us with your suggestions.
  • Which Environmental Issue Profiles have local concentration, exposure and risk estimates?
    Environmental Issue Profiles for the following hazardous air pollutants will contain estimated local concentration, exposure and health risks estimated by the National Air Toxics Assessment: ​​​
    • 1,3 - Butadiene
    • Acetaldehyde
    • Acrolein
    • Arsenic
    • Benzene
    • Chromium
    • Diesel PM
    • Formaldehyde
    • Lead
    • Naphthalene
    • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbon (PAH) 

    Other Environmental Issue Profiles do not have local concentration, exposure and risk estimates at this time, but still contain valuable information including links to data, sources, health risks, exposure and risk reduction options, and community strategies. C-FERST does not provide data on every environmental issue that may be important to a community. C-FERST should be supplemented with additional information and local knowledge before taking any action to address potential concerns.
  • How are C-FERST Environmental Issue Profiles different from the Community Data Table?
    C-FERST Environmental Issue Profiles provide information about an environmental issue and, in some cases, estimated local concentrations, exposures and risks. The Environmental Issue Profiles are organized as a report on a single issue with several categories or headings (see FAQs above).

    The Community Data Table provides estimated concentrations, exposures and risks for several environmental issues (air pollutants) and demographic data for a local area (Census Tract), county, and state. It is organized as a table so that all the available data can be seen at the same time.

Top of Page

Measurement Methods

  • How were these environmental measurement methods chosen?
    Some of the measurement methods in the searchable menu on the Environmental Measurement Methods page originated from a 2009 review of measurement tools available to communities for conducting exposure and cumulative risk assessments. Since then, we have continued to update and add measurement methods and also included top EPA resources on citizen science on this page. If there are additional environmental measurement methods or citizen science resources you would like to see added to C-FERST, please contact us with your suggestions.

Top of Page

Community Projects

  • How were these community and tribal projects chosen?
    The searchable menu of community and tribal projects were gathered from various EPA programs including Community Action for a Renewed Environment (CARE), Environmental Justice Grants, Indoor Air Quality, Brownfields and many others. If there are additional community and tribal programs, projects, case studies or success stories highlighting how communities have addressed environmental issues that you would like to see added to C-FERST, please contact us with your suggestions.
  • How were the Community Guides chosen?
    The EPA’s former CARE Program was a key partner in the development of C-FERST. C-FERST has tools and information that can help with some steps of the CARE Roadmap. Many CARE grantees used the Protocol for Assessing Community Excellence in Environmental Health (PACE-EH) Guidebook to assist with community assessment. This provides some guidance for communities, including Tasks for ranking issues and setting priorities for actions. Go to the Community Guides.

Top of Page

Additional Tools

Top of Page