Overview of the Division of Environmental Health (DEH)
The MDHHS Division of Environmental Health
What is Environmental Health?
The field of environmental health is not about the birds, bees, and trees; it’s about you and the places where you live, work, and play.
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services’ (MDHHS) Division of Environmental Health (DEH) uses the best available science to reduce, eliminate, or prevent harm from environmental, chemical, and physical hazards. They also aim to promote environmental justice and equity for the people of Michigan by providing services to those who need them – such as the distribution of water filters to reduce PFAS or lead in drinking water, and removal of lead paint hazards from homes.
We serve to promote and protect the health of the people of Michigan by using the best available methods for epidemiology, toxicology, and health education to identify exposures, investigate related health effects, and intervene with public health actions. We aim to make sure state residents, especially those who are most at risk, are aware of and can take action to avoid environmental, chemical, and physical hazards.
The first step in our work is to identify potential health threats. These threats are sometimes brought to our attention through data from our partnering State agencies, like the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) or our federal partners, including the Environmental Protection Agency or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sometimes, we hear about concerns from people like you. We look at what is known, identify public health hazards, and determine next steps through the identification and collection of data.
When a health hazard is discovered or suspected, investigation helps us understand who is at-risk from the hazard and determine if any immediate public health actions are necessary. Thorough investigations can occur to provide science-based answers about exposure, injury, or the efficacy of intervention. Our staff conduct human exposure assessments, health studies, or environmental assessments to determine the public health risks. They work with local, state, and federal partners to identify how exposures may be occurring and what can be done to limit those exposures.
As populations or individuals are identified as being at-risk from a hazard, MDHHS works to reduce, eliminate, or prevent harm – either by providing information about the exposure to those affected or connecting with local, state, and federal partners who have the ability to address the hazards. Our staff oversee contracts to conduct lead removal in homes of children who have elevated blood lead levels and distribute water filters in communities to those with need with drinking water that contains lead or PFAS, among other direct interventions. We also work to better inform the public by sharing data, issuing public health advisories, and developing and distributing educational materials to help you understand risks and actions you can take to keep you and your loved ones safe and healthy.
Office of the Division Director
Senior Subject Matter Experts
The Division is supported by a small team of highly experienced toxicologists, epidemiologists, health educators, and project specialists who lend their expertise to projects throughout the division and work to ensure quality outputs.
Strategy and Operations
The Strategy and Operations team serves the Division by providing strategic guidance, developing policies and processes, providing technical support, and ensuring the Division functions efficiently so staff can focus on the important issue of protecting public health in the state of Michigan.
Financial Management Unit
The role of the Financial Management Unit is to support the Division by creating and maintaining allocation budgets, creating and maintaining annual spend plans, conduct compliance testing on contracts to ensure they are audit ready, tracking expenditures, coordinating grant applications, grant reporting, creating and maintaining purchase agreements, grant agreements and spending analysis.
Division Sections and Programs
Chemical Emergencies and Response Section
The Chemical Emergency and Response Section carries out much of the field work for the Division, including both environmental sampling and community outreach activities. Staff provide support to our local, state, and federal partners in the event of public environmental health disasters, like oil spills and other hazardous chemical releases. They also can be found in the community, handing out information at events or conducting public meetings and listening sessions.
Toxicology and Assessment Section
The Toxicology and Assessment Section supports Division activities with expertise in areas such as toxicology, risk assessment, data management, and environmental epidemiology. Their work includes assessing and making recommendations on Superfund sites, PFAS sites, and other sites with environmental contamination, as well as studying health effects of exposure to toxic chemicals.
Environmental Health Surveillance Section
The Environmental Health Surveillance Section carries out public health surveillance, gathering data on childhood lead poisoning, drug overdoses, workplace injuries, and many other health issues linked to environmental causes. The section uses this data to assist local health departments and other state agencies in addressing environmental health concerns, as well as working directly with families affected by lead contamination and making data publicly available through their MiTracking program.
Healthy Homes Section
The mission of the Healthy Homes Section is to improve the health and well-being of Michigan citizens by promoting safe and healthy home environments through comprehensive home-based intervention programs, lead certifications and regulations, public education and outreach, quality assurance and improvement, and statewide partnerships. Their efforts include investigating lead contamination in homes with children; overseeing work to reduce or eliminate exposure to household lead; and training, certifying, and regulating the contractors who do this work.
Michigan Climate and Health Adaptation Program
The Michigan Climate and Health Adaptation Program identifies and assesses climate-related health threats and works within the public health system and across sectors to implement interventions and equitably build adaptive capacity, particularly in vulnerable communities. Activities include developing strategies to respond to heat illness, asthma exacerbation, amplified routes for transmission of infectious diseases, and severe storms and flooding through community planning, direct intervention, education, and work with partners.