Overview of the Division of Environmental Health (DEH)
Toxicology and Response Section
The Division of Environmental Health (DEH) addresses the impacts of natural and manmade environmental hazards on human health. Its toxicologists, epidemiologists, health educators and other public health professionals are organized into three Sections and a Program, listed below. Kory Groetsch is the Director of the Division of Environmental Health.
The public can contact DEH toll-free during business hours at the following:
1) For questions about the environment and health concerns, including information on mold cleanup, call 1-800-MI-TOXIC (1-800-648-6942).
2) For questions about lead-based paint, certification, and assistance in dealing with lead hazards in homes, call 1-866-691-LEAD (1-866-691-5323).
3) For questions about cancer in the community, visit the Michigan Cancer Surveillance Program webpage and click on the "More" tab.
The DEH units follow:
The Toxicology and Response Section (TARS) Toxicologists and Health Educators evaluate and address health concerns related to hazardous chemicals in air, soil, water, and biota including wild game and fish. TARS staff members are available to Michigan’s citizens to answer questions about hazardous chemicals in the environment and health concerns through the MI-TOXIC Hotline, 1-800-648-6942. Contact Deb MacKenzie-Taylor, Section Manager, for more information about the Toxicology and Response Section.
Section activities include:
- Public Health Assessment and Consultation. Since 1987, the Section has conducted public health assessment activities at sites of environmental contamination in Michigan under a cooperative agreement with the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). These sites include federal Superfund sites, state-led cleanups, Brownfield evaluations, and other sites of environmental public health concern. Section toxicologists partner with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and various State of Michigan agencies to evaluate human exposure to hazardous substances in the environment and recommend actions to stop harmful exposure. Visit the Division's webpage for more information.
- Health Education and Community Involvement. Health education and community involvement staff convey technical information (analytical chemistry data, toxicology principles, exposure pathways, and risk assessment results) in a way that is easy for the average person to understand. They develop written materials (factsheets, brochures), host or participate in public meetings, and evaluate public response (focus groups and surveys).
- Response to Chemical Emergencies. Section Toxicologists and Health Educators provide expertise in support of local, state, and federal response to chemical release events where hazardous substances pose a threat to public health. Information about these activities, including the 2010 Enbridge oil spill on the Kalamazoo River, can be found at the Health Assessments webpage. For information about the hazards of mercury spills in private homes, schools, and healthcare settings, please visit the Mercury and Your Health webpage.
- Eat Safe Fish and Game in Michigan. The Eat Safe Fish program evaluates levels of chemicals in Michigan sport caught fish, issues the Michigan Fish Consumption Guidelines, and provides education and information about chemicals in Michigan sport-caught and store-bought fish. The program also evaluates levels of chemicals in wild game that may be impacted by contaminated sites. Support from the EPA Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI), provided under multiple awards, has allowed TARS to conduct a complete overhaul of the program, incorporate the best available science, and design new and effective communication tools. Current GLRI awards provide the resources to evaluate fish consumption Beneficial Use Impairments at Michigan’s Areas of Concern and take the Eat Safe Fish message to health care providers. Please visit the Eat Safe Fish webpage for more information.
The Environmental Health Surveillance Section addresses health concerns related to environmental and workplace hazards in Michigan using the tools of public health surveillance, epidemiology, and intervention. Contact Tom Largo, Section Manager, for more information on the Environmental Health Surveillance Section.
Section activities include:
- Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention. The childhood lead poisoning prevention program (CLPPP) maintains the laboratory-based blood lead reporting and surveillance system; analyzes and publishes data summaries; collaborates with partners in outreach and education to promote lead poisoning prevention; oversees funding to Local Health Departments for primary and secondary prevention of lead poisoning, and provides consultations to the public, public health professionals, and health professionals on management and prevention of lead exposure and elevated blood lead levels. CLPPP works closely with the Healthy Homes Program to ensure the link between children with elevated blood lead levels and lead abatement services and oversight provided by Healthy Homes.
- Michigan Environmental Public Health Tracking (MI Tracking): In August 2014, MDHHS was funded by CDC to join a network of 25 states to build and implement an Environmental Public Health Tracking Network. The goal of the program is to provide integrated health and environmental data to the public and public health professionals and use the data to inform actions that improve the health of communities. MI Tracking is building partnerships and technical capacity to develop a web-based portal to query for health, exposure and environmental data. Michigan data will also be displayed on the National Tracking portal, which is expected to go live in 2016. For more information about the National Tracking network, see http://www.cdc.gov/nceh/tracking. Go to www.michigan.gov/mitracking for more information on the Michigan Tracking program and links to data summaries for Michigan.
- Injury epidemiology. Epidemiologists collect and analyze injury mortality and morbidity data to support and target injury prevention activities in the MDHHS Injury and Violence Prevention Section. Annual reports with injury data and annual provision of injury health “Indicator” data to CDC are supplemented with special analytical reports (for example, the scope of fall injuries in older adults). Section staff also support data collection and analysis for the Michigan Violent Death Reporting System, a state-based surveillance system in multiple states that collects data on violent deaths (homicides, suicides, deaths of undetermined manner, and deaths due to legal intervention and unintentional firearm injuries) to help design and implement prevention and intervention efforts. For information, reports and fact sheets, visit Injury and Violence Prevention.
- Tracking occupational illnesses and injuries. Funding from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) is supporting a program for surveillance of occupational illnesses and injuries in Michigan. In collaboration with the Occupational and Environmental Medicine Division, College of Human Medicine, Michigan State University, the program collects, analyzes, and disseminates data on occupational injuries and illnesses in Michigan and works with stakeholders in other agencies and organizations to use the data for public health prevention activities. Visit Occupational Health for more information about the MDHHS program, access to data sources and reports, and links to other occupational health web sites.
- Surveillance for acute pesticide poisoning. There are over 16,000 different pesticides registered for sal and use in Michigan. These may seriously impact the health of Michigan workers and the public. The Pesticide Illness and Injury Surveillance project gathers reports of pesticide exposures that result in acute illnesses and injuries and provides Michigan citizens with reliable information to understand and safely use pesticides. Visit pesticide information for more information about this program, including annual surveillance reports, and links to over 150 websites with general information on pesticides, children and pesticides, mosquitoes and other pests, lawn and garden care, alternatives to chemical pesticides, and other topics.
- Surveillance for carbon monoxide poisoning in Michigan: Carbon monoxide, or CO, is a gas that is produced during combustion. When inhaled it enters the bloodstream and cuts off delivery of oxygen to the body’s organs and tissues. Every year the Section collects CO information on hundreds of Michigan illness cases and another 20 or more cases involving death from exposure to CO in Michigan. Visit www.michigan.gov/carbonmonoxide for annual surveillance reports and information for the public on how to prevent CO poisoning.
- Tracking hazardous substances releases in Michigan. With federal funding (2005 -2009), the Section established a surveillance system for hazardous substances releases in Michigan called Hazardous Substance Emergencies Emergency Events Surveillance (HSEES). Although federal funding has ended, the surveillance system continues to collect, analyze and disseminate data on acute chemical releases and related adverse health effects, and conduct interventions to mitigate impacts on the environment and human health. Visit HSEES for more information and annual data reports.
- Preparing for radiation emergencies. The Section collaborates with Michigan State Police, the Michigan Department of Environmental Protection, and the MDHHS Bureau of EMS, Trauma, and Preparedness in a program for distribution of a radio-protective drug (potassium iodide or "KI") to the public who live or work around Michigan's three nuclear power plants. Visit www.michigan.gov/ki for more information.
The Healthy Homes Section (Section) provides six programs that address the reduction of lead-based paint poisoning and the promotion of healthy homes throughout the State of Michigan. More information on each of the programs is available by visiting our website at www.michigan.gov/leadsafe or by calling our toll free number of 866-691-5323 or 517-335-9390. Contact Carin Speidel, Section Manager, for more information about the Healthy Homes Section.
Section activities include:
- Lead Safe Home Program. The Lead Safe Home Program provides assistance to low-moderate income families whose children are lead poisoned or families that live in homes that may poison a child. The program provides resources to identify lead-based paint hazards and hire contractors that will safely remove these hazards. Home owners and rental property owners are encouraged to apply for this program. Applications are available on our website. For information please call Kendra Torrey at 517-373-2735.
- Public and Professional Lead Prevention Education. The Section provides education to families of lead poisoned children by answering telephone calls on what resources are available and what steps can be taken by homeowners, renters, and rental property owners to reduce lead paint exposures. Education is also available to lead paint inspectors, elevated blood lead (EBL) investigators, and lead abatement professionals on how to interpret and follow state and federal rules and guidelines. Families and rental property owners who are in need of finding a lead professional can go directly to: http://www.michigan.gov/mdhhs/0,5885,7-339-71550_2955_2983_3178-95171--,00.html
- Certification of Lead Professionals. The Section is authorized by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to accredit lead paint professionals in accordance with the EPA Toxic Substance Control Act. All persons interested in becoming a state certified lead inspector, risk assessor, EBL investigator, abatement worker, supervisor, clearance technician, abatement contractor or an accredited training provider are encouraged to learn more from our website. A new online application system is now in place at http://michigan.gov/elicense
- Enforcement of Lead Professional Activities. The Section is authorized by EPA to oversee all regulated lead-based paint professionals to ensure they are following state and federal laws in their professional practices. Consumers are encouraged to call the Section and file a complaint if they have reason to believe a lead professional has not complied with the Michigan Lead Abatement Act. http://www.michigan.gov/documents/Act10_11140_7.pdf.
- Coalition and Community Assistance. The Section partners with coalitions and taskforces to address lead poisoning in local communities including:
- The Michigan Alliance for Lead Safe Homes (MIALSH) is a coalition that addresses lead poisoning prevention funding and legislative issues. MIALSH meets monthly by phone and in person once a year to address current events. More information can be found at http://www.mileadsafehomes.blogspot.com/
- The Lead Prevention Task Force is a partnership of state and local housing agencies with the mission of simplifying the process for Michigan families to apply for housing assistance. The Task Force is working to improve government and keep Michigan families first. The task force meets quarterly. For more information please call Jennifer Shutts at 517-241-8436.
- Healthy Homes Education and Interventions. The Section offers assistance to a limited number of families per year to help address childhood illness and injury prevention and reduce environmental health triggers of asthma and other indoor environmental health diseases. Funding is from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). For more information go to our website or call Courtney Wisinski at 517-335-8252.
Addressing climate-related public health impacts in Michigan. The CDC's Climate Ready States and Cities Initiative funds the Michigan Climate and Health Adaptation Program (MiCHAP). Program staff are leading efforts in Michigan to assess, prevent and adapt to anticipated health impacts from climate change, including extreme weather events. Contact Lorri Cameron for more information on this program.
For more information, fact sheets and resources, visit the website, Preparing for the Public Health Impacts of Climate Change.
You can reach the Division of Environmental Health by calling 517-335-8350 or toll free via the Toxics and Health Hotline at 1-800-648-6942. You can write to the Division at:
Michigan Department of Health and Human Services
Division of Environmental Health
PO Box 30195
Lansing, MI 48909