The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (MDHSS) involvement in the protection of public health from hazardous substances in the environment dates back to the early 1980s, driven by concerns associated with legacy sites such as the Weldon Spring site and dioxin contamination of Times Beach (and related dioxin-contaminated sites). The Bureau of Environmental Epidemiology (BEE), established in 1983, was tasked with the responsibility of addressing potential public health concerns at contaminated sites across the state.
Since the establishment of the MDHSS/Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) cooperative agreement partnership in 1989, MDHSS has continued to steadily strengthen its capacity to assess and respond to the risks of exposure to hazardous substances in the environment. The Health and Risk Assessment Program (HRAP) within BEE works closely with communities, environmental and public health agencies, and industry to reduce or eliminate human exposure to hazardous substances from hazardous waste sites. The HRAP team is specifically responsible for evaluating the human health threats of exposure to hazardous substances and educates communities about possible adverse health effects from exposure to those substances. HRAP staff develop public health documents [(e.g., public health assessments (PHAs), health consultations (HCs)] and fact sheets on contaminated sites and spills and, where further investigations are warranted, perform exposure investigations. HRAP staff also provides extensive technical assistance to regulatory agencies, including reviews of technical documents of site investigations and cleanups at Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA), Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), Brownfields, and other hazardous waste sites.
In addition, the HRAP team is working with ATSDR and state partners, including the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) Office of Childhood and the MDHSS Bureau of Environmental Health Services (BEHS), in the implementation of the Choose Safe Places for Early Care and Education (CSPECE) program to prevent children from being exposed to environmental hazards at early care and education facilities.
In addition to core site activities and CSPECE activities, the HRAP team oversees Missouri’s annual fish advisory, provides private drinking water sampling for citizens, and responds to community concerns associated with potential chemical exposures such as pesticide exposures and potential exposure concerns from illicit methamphetamine laboratory contamination of homes. The team also partners with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and several local public health agencies (LPHAs) for health education in mining impacted areas of the state, and with federal and state agencies and other stakeholders on the development of national and state health and risk assessment guidance and training.
With this funding opportunity, HRAP will continue with to work closely with ATSDR to sustain, expand, and improve efforts to conduct and coordinate Component 1 site-specific activities to keep communities safe from harmful environmental exposures and related diseases and proposes activities for Component 2 focused on capacity development and applied prevention science.