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Healthy NJ 2020

Home > Topics > Environmental Health

Environmental Health

The environment plays a key role in public health. Environmental exposures such as lead, radon, air pollution, and poor water quality can adversely impact our health.

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Air

Improved air quality is a priority of the New Jersey Departments of Health (NJDOH) and Environmental Protection (NJDEP).  Ensuring the air is clean is important from both a public health and a public welfare perspective. Health effects can be short term (acute) or long term and become chronic.  Polluted air also damages plants, animals, rivers, and lakes. Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer overall and the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers.

Air quality in New Jersey has been improving as the State continues to exceed the health benchmarks for many toxic emissions. New Jersey has put emphasis on controlling emissions from diesel engines due to the severe adverse health effects associated with exposure to the components of diesel particles.  Surveillance of air quality is conducted regularly to ensure that the State meets national Ambient Air Quality Standards. New Jersey uses an air monitoring program called the Air Quality Index (AQI) which uses the composite of five pollutants for which there are national health-based standards in order to assign an air quality rating such as "good" or "unhealthy."  The DOH and DEP are continuing to expand the New Jersey Environmental Public Health Tracking (EPHT) Network, which is part of a national network being developed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Both Departments collect data on health, human exposures, and environmental hazards and the EPHT Network seeks to bring this information together as a resource for the public, government officials, health care providers, community organizations, and researchers.

Fine particles are of greatest health concern since they can be breathed deep into the respiratory tract. Exposure to these particles can lead to asthma attacks, coughing, and shortness of breath, bronchitis, lung cancer, and premature death.  High radon levels have been found in all NJ counties and NJDEP and USEPA recommend that all homes be tested for radon.  Testing your home for radon is easy and homes with high levels of radon can be fixed (mitigated).

Water

Maintaining good water quality is essential to keeping New Jerseyans healthy. Community water systems provide drinking water to more than 85% of the state's population and increasing the percentage of community water systems in compliance with state and federal drinking water requirements is a DOH priority. 

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) require mandatory, regular monitoring of treated water delivered to the public. Test results are compared to standards for drinking water quality called Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs), the maximum permissible level of a contaminant in public drinking water.  The New Jersey Environmental Public Health Tracking (EPHT) program, working in close partnership with the NJ Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP), has summarized data on water quality for over 600 community water systems in New Jersey, as well as on water quality for numerous private wells. 

 

For more information, please refer to these resources:


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