The Health Assessment Process and your community

The Health Assessment Process and your community


– So how was school today? – Good.
– You sure? – Yes. – No issues
that we have to talk about? – No. – And your homework was fine? – I didn’t do it yet. [laughter] – How come? – I didn’t have time to. – Okay, well, when you get home, what’s the first thing
that you’re gonna do? – My homework.
– Okay. Great, that’s great. And how–how was Mrs. McClellan? – Good. Can I have free time after–
after homework? – Yeah. Be careful. – Okay. Ew! It smells. – I think it’s coming
from the creek. We should get out of here. – I agree. – He’s right. What he smells probably
isn’t good. It might even be chemicals from
that old factory back there. Sometimes people do get exposed
to chemicals in their environment. As you can imagine, hazardous chemicals
can sometimes be harmful to people’s health, and it takes a special group
of people to figure out if those exposures
are dangerous. A special group of people like the Agency for Toxic
Substances and Disease Registry or ATSDR. Hi, I’m Jennifer Fried
from ATSDR. In the next few minutes, I’m going to introduce you
to our agency. I’m gonna explain
what our agency does in communities like yours. Most importantly,
I’m gonna let you know what you can expect from ATSDR. There’s a good chance you’ve never even heard
of ATSDR before. ATSDR is a very small agency, part of the U.S. Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention, the CDC. ATSDR’s headquarters is located
in Atlanta, Georgia, But we also have staff in the
ten regions across the country. We also have partnerships with
many state health departments that help us address
people’s concerns about environmental exposures. Now that you know our name
and where we work, you might be wondering
what we do. In a nutshell, ATSDR’s main job is to reduce your exposure
to hazardous chemicals. How do we do that? Come along,
and I’ll show you. ATSDR gets involved
in communities where people might be exposed to hazardous chemicals
in their environment. It could be something
in the water… or the soil… or the air… or even something that we eat. Hazardous chemicals can be found
both indoors and outdoors. As it turns out, there might even be
something hazardous in this creek right here, and it’s ATSDR’s job to find out if it could harm
people’s health. One of the first things ATSDR
does is visit the site. Once we arrive in a community, our first step is to talk to
people who are concerned about hazardous chemicals
in their environment. This is usually done by someone
we call a health assessor. The next thing we look at
is how people in a community might be exposed to hazardous
chemicals in their environment. For example, have Tommy and his
friends ever played in the creek when there is a strong smell? Once we know that people
have been exposed to hazardous chemicals, we look at how that exposure
might affect their health. We do this by studying data–
a lot of data. In fact, that’s what our health
assessor is doing right now. – That’s right,
like you said. I’m in the process
of studying the results of water samples
collected from the creek to see if there’s any chemicals
in them, and if so, how much. It’s basically what ATSDR does. – Most times,
an ATSDR health assessor studies the data
from samples taken in air, water, and soil
in the community to see if people have had
contact with unhealthy amounts of hazardous chemicals. – It’s important to remember
that ATSDR analyzes the data, but they don’t collect
the samples themselves in most cases. Either EPA or some other
health agency will collect them. Sometimes, there isn’t enough
data to make a call on. In that case, we might not
be able to determine if hazardous exposures
are occurring. – It’s also important
to remember that studying the data from
samples of air, water, and soil takes time. It doesn’t happen overnight. It can take a few weeks
or even months to really analyze the data so that we provide
the very best information about whether people are being
exposed to hazardous chemicals. So it’s been a while
since our health assessor started studying the data
of samples of creek water. Let’s catch up with him
to see what he’s found. – Hello.
– Hello. So what did you learn
from the data? – Well, we learned that
there’s some low levels of hazardous chemicals
in the creek. They’re high enough to cause
odors in the community but not high enough
to pose any harm. – So there’s no health hazard
at the site? – That’s correct.
– Okay. – Thank you.
– You’re welcome. So the health assessor
studied the data and came to the conclusion that the amount of chemicals
in the creek was not high enough to cause any harm
to people’s health. And that’s exactly what the health assessor’s
going to write in his report, which brings us to the next step
in the ATSDR process. After the health assessor
has studied all the data, they usually write up a report that explains what they found
and what it means. They may also make
recommendations to the community and other health agencies about how they can reduce
exposures to hazardous chemicals in the community. Once the health assessor
has completed the report, they will talk to the community to explain what they found
and what those findings mean. They will also answer
any questions the community may have
about the report, and this is done
at a community meeting. ATSDR works very hard
to answer any questions you might have
about our reports. We want to make sure
communities like yours understand everything they need to know about hazardous
chemicals in their environment. So that’s basically it. You have seen how our job is to help protect
your community from exposures
to hazardous chemicals. We’ve been doing this
for over 30 years in communities all across
the United States. ATSDR is looking forward
to working with your community. If you have any questions
about ATSDR, please do not hesitate
to ask your health assessor or call 1-800-CDC-INFO. Thanks for joining us.

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