Environmental health examines how different environments affect a person’s well-being. The health effects of breathing air or drinking water, for example, are researched in specific locations where there may be cause for concern. Department of Health (DOH) environmental health staff members work closely with federal, state, county, local officials and the public on a regular basis to help address environmental health issues and concerns.
Some residents have expressed concern with the impact of environmental factors on their health, including from natural resource extraction such as natural gas. While the DOH does not provide primary health care services, it does provide advice based on the nature of the complaint and works closely with the individual who filed the complaint and, if they agree, their health care providers to address their concerns.
How to Report Environmental Health Concerns
If you have an environmental health concern, the tips below are intended to help us address your concern in the most efficient way possible. Please be patient, as environmental health concerns often include many variables and take time to investigate and to conduct a health evaluation. However, by having the following things in place before you file your complaint, you can help expedite the department’s response:
1. Visit your healthcare provider or doctor first. Have them examine you for your health concern, as they know your health history best. Get a copy of your medical records, and be prepared to share them with the DOH. If your doctor would like to discuss with us your health issues, we are available.
2. Have environmental test results available. Be prepared to share any environmental tests results with the DOH such as water, soil or air testing results.
3. Be prepared to speak about your family’s current health and health history. If your family is willing to provide health records, get permission from them to share those records before calling the DOH.
4. The more specific you can be, the better we can serve you. Be prepared to talk about your symptoms. If your concerns are about specific contaminants, be prepared to share with us details such as: how you are exposed to such contaminants and for how long, your proximity to those contaminants, and any changes you’ve seen in your health since your exposure to the contaminants, etc.
To file an environmental health concern, please contact us at:
Pennsylvania Department of Health
Division of Environmental Health Epidemiology
Room 933, Health and Welfare Building
625 Forster St., Harrisburg, PA 17120
Toll free hotline: 1-877 PA Health (724-3258)
(***If the provided email link doesn’t work for you, please copy and paste the email address into the To: field in your email program***)
How does the Department of Health handle environmental health concerns?
Environmental health complaints are reported to the DOH’s Bureau of Epidemiology where they are reviewed and investigated, data is collected and analyzed and a formal response is provided directly to the individual who filed the complaint, regardless of the nature of the complaint. At times we request additional information from callers to help us in our investigation e.g. water samples or health records. If environmental sampling data is not available for review, we will work with the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to collect data, when indicated and as appropriate. A lack of environmental sampling data may limit the department’s ability to conduct a thorough investigation. While the DOH does not provide primary health care services, it does provide advice based on the nature of the complaint and works closely with the individual who filed the complaint and, if they agree, their health care provider to address their concerns.
Depending on the nature of the complaint, DOH environmental health staff members work closely with federal, state, county, local officials and the public on a regular basis to help address environmental health issues and concerns throughout the commonwealth.
How do I know if I should report a complaint to DEP vs. DOH?
DEP works to protect the state’s air, land and water from pollution and ensure a clean environment. If your concern involves drinking water or the waterways, air quality issues or potential soil pollution the DEP is the agency to direct your complaint or questions. Additionally, DEP takes reports of spills, accidents and other releases of hazardous substances and contaminants.
The DEP will test the air, water or soil to determine if there is a problem.
Environmental health examines how different environments affect a person’s well-being. The health effects of breathing air, drinking water, and more are researched in specific locations where there may be cause for concern. Environmental health complaints are reported to DOH’s Bureau of Epidemiology where they are reviewed and investigated.
If you have a concern that is specific to your health or the health of a family member or friend, which may be caused by the air, water or soil, your complaint should be directed to the DOH’s Bureau of Epidemiology (BOE).
· FAQ document
· Fact Sheets on some of the chemicals associated with gas extraction
· DEP Resources related to Marcellus Shale
· Reporting an Environmental Complaint with DEP
US Department of Energy: http://energy.gov/fe/shale-gas-101
Environmental Protection Agency: http://www2.epa.gov/hydraulicfracturing
Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registry: http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/emes/
U.S. Government Accountability Office – Information on Shale Resources, Development, and Environmental and Public Health Risks: http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-12-732
Geisinger Marcellus Shale and Health Outcomes: http://www.geisinger.org/research/centers_departments/environmental/marcellus_shale
Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission: http://www.portal.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt/community/marcellus_shale_advisory_commission/20074
Penn State Extension: Water Quality and Drinking Water: http://extension.psu.edu/natural-resources/water/marcellus-shale/drinking-water
American Academy of Pediatrics: Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unity: http://www.aoec.org/pehsu/documents/hydraulic_fracturing_and_children_2011_health_prof.pdf
UPENN Occupational & Environmental Medicine: http://www.med.upenn.edu/oem/contact.shtml
OSHA: Oil and Gas Extraction: https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/oilgaswelldrilling/index.html