About Environmental Health, Tracking and Exposure

Environmental Health

While there are many ways to define environmental health, we think about it as how the environment might affect a person's health. The environment is the air we breathe, our water, our food and our surroundings. It's the chemicals, radiation and microbes as well as the physical world that we have contact with everyday. Understanding how we interact with the environment is complicated; so is understanding how the environment may affect our health.

This web site focuses mainly on how chemicals in the environment might affect health. It provides links to the following kinds of data:

  • Environmental hazard data about chemicals or other substances in the environment.
  • Exposure data about the level of a chemical in people's bodies.
  • Data about health conditions and diseases, such as asthma or birth defects.
  • Other data helpful to explore relationships between exposures and health effects, such as data that describes people (age, race and sex), or behavior or lifestyle choices that could affect the likelihood that people are diagnosed with particular health condition.


One of the tools used to examine trends in environmental health is tracking or surveillance. Tracking means continuously collecting, examining and sharing data. In environmental health tracking, we are interested in examining trends of environmental hazards, exposures, health conditions and population. We do this for individual data sets or combinations of data sets.

Tracking information can be shared in different ways, such as maps or tables. You may be familiar with some environmental health tracking information such as EPA's Air Quality Index that reports daily air quality, or New York State's Cancer Registry that collects and reports cancer incidence data across the state.