Overview of the Division of Environmental Health (DEH)
Toxicology and Response Section
Epidemiology and Surveillance Section
Environmental Health Preparedness Section Healthy Homes Section
Office of the Division Director
The Division of Environmental Health is comprised of four organizational units: the Toxicology and Response Section, the Epidemiology and Surveillance Section, the Healthy Homes Section, and the Environmental Health Preparedness Section. Each section has different responsibilities as described below. However, the Sections work together and share resources. The Office of Division Director also has a program regarding asthma.
Division staff provides professional consultation to individuals and organizations with concerns about the health effects of exposures to toxic substances and partners with universities and other governmental organizations in related research and service activities.
The Division maintains several toll-free telephone hotlines for the general public. Callers can have questions answered about anything from contaminants in fish to formaldehyde in home products. A toxicologist is on hand to answer questions about the environment and health concerns at 1-800-MI-TOXIC (1-800-648-6942) during business hours Monday through Friday. Lead professionals are also available to answer questions about lead-based paint, certification, and assistance in dealing with hazards in your home at 1-866-691-LEAD (5323).
The following includes brief descriptions of the functions of the three Sections and Office of the Director programs. Contact Dr. David Wade for additional information about the Division.
Toxicology and Response Section
The Toxicology and Response Section provides services related to the effects of environmental contamination on human health. It does so through a cooperative agreement with the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). ATSDR is a federal human health agency whose mission is to prevent or mitigate adverse human health effects and diminished quality of life resulting from exposure to hazardous substances in the environment.
The primary service the Toxicology and Response Section provides is to conduct health assessments and consultations. Health assessments and consultations are evaluations of sites where environmental contamination is of concern. The health assessor supplements state or federal regulatory agency (Michigan Department of Environmental Quality or the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) efforts by determining what, if any, threat to human health a site may pose. Once a conclusion on a site is made, the health assessor makes any necessary recommendations protective of public health. Recommendations may include further testing of the soil, air, or water; restricting access to a site; or cleaning up a site.
Along with health assessments and consultations, the section provides environmental health education to communities and health professionals. This education can come in the form of presentations, public meetings, and written materials. The section has a library of environmental health education materials. All materials are free. Contact Dr. Linda Dykema at (517) 335-8566 or call 1-800-MI-TOXIC (1-800-648-6942) for more information. Click here for factsheets, brochures and other resources on a variety of toxic substances.
Epidemiology and Surveillance Section
The Epidemiology and Surveillance Section addresses health concerns related to environmental and workplace hazards in Michigan using the tools of epidemiology and public health surveillance. Our activities are described below. Please contact Dr. Lorri Cameron for more information on our Section.
- Providing data-driven epidemiology support to Injury Control and Substance Abuse activities of MDCH. Our Injury Epidemiologist Specialist, Tom Largo, conducts surveillance and data analyses on the burden of traumatic injuries and poisonings in Michigan. For information on occupational injuries and deaths, see Tracking occupational illnesses and injuries, below. For information, reports and fact sheets on non-occupational injuries and poisonings, please visit Injury and Violence Prevention. Anita Ofori-Addo is the epidemiologist for the Michigan Violent Death Reporting System, MiVDRS, which monitors violent deaths (homicides, suicides, deaths of undetermined manner, and deaths due to legal intervention and unintentional firearm injuries). For more information on the MiVDRS, please contact Pat Smith. For a list of reports and fact sheets on violent deaths, please visit Injury and Violence Prevention. Katy Gonzales is our Alcohol Epidemiologist, and Kim Hekman is our CSTE Epidemiology Fellow specializing in Substance Abuse. For information on our Alcohol/ Substance Abuse Epidemiology Program or copies of our fact sheets on alcohol and drug use in Michigan, please visit the Alcohol/Substance Abuse Epidemiology Program.
- Tracking occupational illnesses and injuries. Funding from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) is supporting a program for surveillance of occupational illnesses and injuries in Michigan. In collaboration with the Occupational and Environmental Medicine Division, College of Human Medicine, Michigan State University, the program collects, analyzes, and disseminates data on occupational injuries and illnesses in Michigan and works with stakeholders in other agencies and organizations to use the data for public health prevention activities. Visit Occupational Health for more information about the program, access to data sources and reports, and links to other occupational health web sites, or contact Tom Largo.
- Emory University continues research on the health of the PBB Long-Term Study Cohort. The registry of Michigan citizens exposed to polybrominated biphenyls (PBBs), through consumption of contaminated meat, poultry, and dairy products was established in 1976 and was the basis of many years of scientific research on potential health effects. In 2011, MDCH discontinued any further activity to maintain this cohort. Dr. Michele Marcus of Emory University continues her research on PBB health effects with interested cohort members. View our PBB Fact Sheet for historic information on PBBs in Michigan. For information on current PBB research activities or to find out about participating in the research, contact Dr. Marcus or phone 1-888-892-0074. More information on PBBs in general is available from the ATSDR Toxicology Profile on PBBs and PBDEs.
Environmental Health Preparedness Section
The Environmental Health Preparedness Section provides services related to planning, preparedness, and response to environmental emergency events that pose a threat to human health, including chemical releases and radiation.
For more information on these services, contact Martha Stanbury.
Preparing for chemical emergencies. Preparing for and responding to dangerous chemical releases, both accidental and intentional, are important functions of public health. This Section assists local health departments and other emergency response agencies to plan for and respond to chemical emergency events. The Section provides expertise in epidemiology and surveillance, and education and outreach, and collaborates with toxicologists and health educators in the Toxicology and response Section to provide expert consultations in the areas of exposure and risk assessment.
Tracking hazardous substances releases in Michigan. With federal funding (2005 -2009), the Section established a surveillance system for hazardous substances releases in Michigan called Hazardous Substance Emergencies Emergency Events Surveillance (HSEES). Although federal funding has ended, the surveillance system continues to collect, analyze and disseminate data on acute chemical releases and related adverse health effects, and conduct interventions to mitigate the impacts of releases on the environmental and human health.
- Surveillance for acute pesticide poisoning. Almost 20 million pounds of restricted use pesticides are used each year in Michigan. These and other pesticides may seriously impact the health of Michigan workers and the public. The Pesticide Illness and Injury Surveillance Program gathers reports of pesticide exposures that result in acute illnesses and injuries and provides Michigan citizens with reliable information to understand and safely use pesticides. Check the website for more information about this program, including annual reports and links to over 150 websites containing general information on pesticides, children and pesticides, mosquitoes and other pests, lawn and garden care, alternatives to chemical pesticides, and other topics. For more information or to report an exposure, contact Abby Schwartz at (517) 335-8350. Confidentiality is maintained.
- Preparing for radiation emergencies. The Section collaborates with Michigan State Police, the Michigan Department of Environmental Protection, and the MDCH Office of Public Health Preparedness in a program for distribution of a radio-protective drug (potassium iodide or "KI") to the public who live or work around Michigan's three nuclear power plants.
Healthy Homes Section
The Healthy Homes Section provides six primary functions that address the reduction of lead-based paint poisoning and the promotion of healthy homes throughout the State of Michigan. They include the 1) administration of various abatement funds to abate lead-based paint hazards in high risk housing units across the state; 2) public and professional education efforts; 3) the certification of lead inspectors, risk assessors, abatement workers, supervisors, clearance technicians, abatement contractors and the accreditation of training providers; 4) the enforcement of lead professional activities per the Lead Abatement Act; 5) assist communities in building effective coalitions and obtain grant/foundation funding to address lead poisoning; and 6) effectively administer the HUD Healthy Homes Demonstration grant to address childhood illness and injury prevention and reduce environmental health triggers of asthma in Ingham County. For more information, go to www.michigan.gov/leadsafe.
Office of the Division Director
Michigan Fish Advisory. Each year the Division oversees the publication of the Michigan Family Fish Advisory. Fish are a healthy food choice. However, some sizes and species of fish from the Great Lakes and from some of Michigan's inland lakes and streams contain chemicals that may be harmful if eaten too often or in high quantities. The fish advisory helps you decide which fish to avoid eating and gives guidelines on how often to eat others. Special caution about eating fish is recommended for pregnant women, nursing mothers, women who intend to have children, and children under the age of 15. Click here to view the Fish Advisory online, or call 1-800-MI-TOXIC (1-800-648-6942).
Addressing air quality issues related to asthma Asthma is a major public health concern in Michigan. In an effort to decrease the burden of asthma in Michigan, the MDCH asthma program helped to create the Asthma Initiative of Michigan (AIM), and currently has several asthma-related projects concerning patient education, health care provider education, epidemiology and surveillance, and environmental exposures. MDCH leads activities addressing environmental exposures that cause the onset of asthma or exacerbate existing asthma symptoms (asthma triggers). Current projects address indoor environmental asthma triggers in homes, schools, and workplaces; outdoor environmental asthma triggers; work-related asthma; and exposure to secondhand smoke. Contact Robert Wahl for additional information.
How You Can Contact the Division of Environmental Health
You can reach the Division of Environmental Health by calling 517-335-8350 or toll free via the Toxics and Health Hotline at 1-800-648-6942. You can write to the Division at:
Michigan Dept of Community Health
Division of Environmental Health
PO Box 30195
Lansing, MI 48909
or contact Division staff.
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