Texas is the ideal state for environmental assessment and public health education; it has a rapidly growing population and large industrial and agriculture sectors. Texas is the second most populous state in the United States and the second largest state in the nation in terms of land mass (U.S. Census Bureau, 2018). Currently, the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA), Superfund Enterprise Management System lists 3,146 hazardous waste sites in Texas. Fifty-five of those sites are listed on the National Priorities List (NPL). In 2021 (the most recent reporting year), Texas ranked fourth in the nation for total reported Toxic Release Inventory chemicals emitted with a total of 193.5 million pounds released or disposed through the air, water and land across 1,743 facilities.
The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) is the principal agency responsible for protecting the public health of Texas residents. DSHS provides community outreach, public health education, and medical and epidemiological support to federal, state, and local agencies in all areas of environmental public health.
The purpose of the activities to be conducted under the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry’s, ATSDR’s Partnership to Promote Localized Efforts to Reduce Environmental Exposure (APPLETREE) is to keep communities safe from harmful exposures and adverse conditions. This includes: identifying pathways of exposure to substances at hazardous waste sites and releases; identifying, implementing, and coordinating public health interventions to reduce or prevent exposures to hazardous substances occurring at levels of concern; and promoting the safe siting of child care and early learning centers. The overall goal to prevent and reduce health effects associated with hazardous environmental exposures is consistent with the “Healthy People 2030” focus area of Environmental Health.
Funding for this project will improve the overall ability of DSHS to assist community members with issues related to hazardous waste sites and to assist federal, state, and local health and environmental agencies with environmental health issues. DSHS staff will prepare Public Health Assessments and Health Consultations at hazardous waste sites, respond to health issues related to toxic substance exposures through technical assistance reports, conduct exposure investigations, conduct community assessments, provide for community involvement, and provide outreach and education. DSHS will develop innovative interactive tools to build local capacity, conduct health education, and help communities prevent harmful environmental exposures. Process and outcome evaluations will be used to determine if short-, mid-, and long-term outcomes were successful. Evaluation results will be used to ensure continuous improvement of the program’s work and increase the evidence base around effective practices to reduce and prevent harmful exposures.