The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has launched a Web-based tool that allows scientists, health professionals and members of the public to track environmental exposures and chronic health conditions. Known as the National Environmental Public Health Tracking Network, the site brings together environmental information from across the country—including air and water pollutants, as well as information for certain chronic conditions, including asthma, cancer, childhood lead poisoning and heart disease—in one resource.
“The ability to examine many data sets together for the first time has already resulted in faster responses to environmental health issues,” said Howard Frumkin, director of the CDC's National Center for Environmental Health, in a news release. “We believe the Tracking Network holds the potential to shed new light on some of our biggest environmental health questions.”
According to the CDC, the Atlanta-based agency funds projects in 17 states that have led to 73 public health actions to control potential illnesses from environmental exposures. As one example, Utah's public health department had received a phone call from a citizen who was concerned about cases of cancer in his neighborhood. The CDC said previously that request would have led to a study that would take a year to complete. By using the new tracking system, the resident learned in less than a day that the likelihood of cancer was no greater in his area than in the state as a whole.
In March 2009, the CDC received additional funding from Congress to expand environmental public health to five more locations. The agency said it hopes to eventually expand the Tracking Network to all 50 states.