Kansas Environmental Epidemiology

Environmental Public Health Overview

  • The most important determinant of human health is our habitat.
  • Protecting the environment and preserving our ecosystem are fundamental to preventing human illness
  • Environmental Public Health (EPH) is a segment of public health concerned with assessing, understanding, and controlling the impacts of people on their environment and the impacts of the environment on them.

What is Environmental Public Health?

Environmental public health (EPH) focuses on the relationship between the environment and human health. It is an integrative rather than distinct science. There is not a set, well-defined body of knowledge. Because of the broadly defined parameters of “environment” and “human health,” EPH studies a multitude of health conditions that arise from toxin (naturally occurring) and toxic (human-made) agents in air, water, soil and food.

EPH uses a systems approach. By applying the basic principles of the actions of toxins and toxics, we examine the pathways that create exposures to humans and other biological receptors (e.g., plants, invertebrates, fish, and animals). A vital function of EPH is to evaluate the effect these exposures have on human health. EPH is reliant upon managing information: knowing resources, accessing current and relevant information, and understanding issues of time (often examining future health risks).

Environmental Health Triad

Environmental Public Health Indicators

Environmental Public Health Indicators (EPHIs) can be used to assess our health status or risk as it relates to our environment. EPHIs were first described by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists (CSTE) environmental public health indicators project in 2000 (www.cdc.gov/nceh/indicators/). These indicators, along with other indicators developed by CSTE, were identified, in part, to provide a means of placing non-infectious diseases and conditions under surveillance towards building a comprehensive National Public Health Surveillance System ( NPHSS). http://www.cste.org/group/ehov

The Pew Environmental Health Commission issued a report in January 2001 entitled, “ America’s Environmental Health Gap: Why the Country Needs a Nationwide Health Tracking Network.” The report illustrated the inadequacies of the environmental health system in the U.S. and recommended the creation of a nationwide health tracking network for disease and exposures.

CDC was provided funding by Congress in 2002 to: 1) develop a national environmental tracking network, and 2) to develop state and local capacity for environmental health. The program has helped several states to develop and implement Environmental Public Health Tracking (EPHT). CDC’s intent is to develop a tracking system to integrate data on environmental hazards and exposures with data about diseases with possible links to the environment.

In non-funded state, the development of similar capacity and tracking infrastructure is challenging. One mechanism of meeting that challenge has been the development of the State Environmental Health Indicators Collaborative (SEHIC). SEHIC is a voluntary group of environmental health practitioners developing templates and how-to guides to be made available for any state. KDHE began its participation with the SEHIC in February 2006. SuIDE&Rquently, KDHE has helped develop air quality indicators and has piloted air and asthma indicators. The SEHIC is finalizing templates for three topics: asthma, air and water quality. Once made available, KDHE will post these indicators on the Environmental Public Health webpage.

In the interim, we have developed graphs for counties where ambient air monitoring data has been collected, tracking the data over time. The data presented include three types of air pollutants: ozone, PM2.5, and PM10. To view these graphs, select the following link to the Kansas Ambient Air Quality Summary Information.

Kansas Ambient Air Quality Summary Information

Ambient (outdoor) air in Kansas is monitored for a several types of pollutants in various locations. For this page, ambient air quality data for counties with monitoring data collected by KDHE in past years is presented in graphic format. Kansas does not monitor air quality in each county throughout the state. However, these data represent ambient air sampling from rural and urban portions of the state. Occasionally equipment is changed or moved, resulting in breaks of monitoring data. For question regarding these data, contact: Matt Unruh, Bureau of Air and Radiation, Air Monitoring and Planning Section, (785) 296-0451.



Ozone (O3)

Where does this data come from, and how was this data retrieved?

PM10: Kansas Ambient Air Quality summary data for PM10 were collected by utilizing the query tool in AQS Discoverer Web. Only sites with annual data completeness greater than or equal to 75% were included in this summary. For counties with more than one monitor the displayed results for each monitor in that particular county appear in the graphs as dashed lines, with the average concentration for the county displayed as a solid line.

PM2.5: Kansas Ambient Air Quality summary data for PM2.5 were collected by utilizing the Standard Report Criteria Selection tool in AQS. AMP 450 was the report generated to produce the data used for this summary. Only sites with annual data completeness greater than or equal to 75% were included in this summary. For counties with more than one monitor the displayed results for each monitor in that particular county appear in the graphs as dashed lines, with the average concentration for the county displayed as a solid line.

Ozone (O3): Kansas Ambient Air Quality summary data for O3 were collected by utilizing the AIR Explorer website. Data for ozone season in Kansas were analyzed, which runs from April 1 through October 31 each year. Only sites with ozone season data completeness greater than or equal to 75% were included in this summary. Data completeness was determined by viewing the Monitor Values Report produced by the AirData website. For counties with more than one monitor the displayed results for each monitor in that particular county appear in the graphs as dashed lines, with the average concentration for the county displayed as a solid line.


AIR Explorer
http://www.epa.gov/airdata/ Air Explorer is a collection of user-friendly visualization tools for air quality analysts. The tools generate maps, graphs, and data tables dynamically. Currently, the tools access ambient concentration data from EPA’s Air Quality System (AQS)

AQS Discoverer Web
https://www.epa.gov/aqs Discoverer is a business intelligence tool from Oracle Corporation for retrieving data from relational databases (i.e., an ad hoc query tool.)  Discoverer is available to all registered AQS users. 

Air Quality System (AQS)
https://www.epa.gov/aqs The Air Quality System (AQS) is EPA's repository of ambient air quality data. AQS stores data from over 10,000 monitors; 5000 of which are currently active.  As discussed in more detail elsewhere, State, Local and Tribal agencies collect the data and submit it to AQS on a periodic basis. This area is primarily intended for direct users of AQS, i.e., those in the state, local and tribal agencies and within EPA who load data into the AQS database or use data from this database for analysis. 

https://aqs.epa.gov/aqsweb/documents/data_mart_welcome.html The AirData Web site gives you access to yearly summaries of United States air pollution data, taken from EPA's air pollution databases. The data include all fifty states plus District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U. S. Virgin Islands. AirData has information about where air pollution comes from (emissions) and how much pollution is in the air outside our homes and work places (monitoring).

Occupational and Environmental Health Epidemiology

Surveillance indicators allow a state to compare its health or risk status with that of other states, evaluate trends over time within the state and helps guide priorities for prevention and intervention efforts. This document presents 20 occupational health indicators that provide information about the health status of the working population in Kansas with respect to workplace injuries and illnesses. The data are from 2009, the most recent data available. Data from subsequent years will be added as it becomes available.

What are the health effects of poor air quality?

Symptoms and the severity of the effect of poor air quality can vary greatly from person to person. Some health effects of poor air quality include difficulty breathing, chest pains, coughing, and headaches. People with asthma, bronchitis, emphysema or other upper respiratory illness are often more susceptible to adverse health effects caused by poor air quality. Determining the quality of the air on a daily basis is difficult for the average person. To help the public understand the quality of the air the Environmental Protection Agency created the Air Quality Index (AQI). To access information for Kansas, go to https://www.airnow.gov/.

Particulate Matter (PM) is a broad classification of non-gaseous pollutants that consist of very fine solid particles and liquid droplets or aerosols. Examples of these solid particles can include dust, dirt, soot, and particles in smoke. Some particles are directly emitted into the air from sources such as vehicles, factories, construction sites, tilled fields, unpaved roads, stone crushing, and burning of wood. Other particles may be formed in the air when gases from burning fuels react with sunlight and water vapor such as fuel combustion in motor vehicles or at power plants. Particles can be suspended in the air for long periods of time and vary in size.

PM causes a wide variety of health and environmental issues. Health issues include: aggravated asthma; respiratory symptoms such as coughing and difficult breathing; chronic bronchitis; decreased lung function and premature death. Elevated PM concentrations result in increased hospital admissions and emergency room visits for people with heart and lung disease. Health problems for sensitive people increase if they are exposed to high levels of PM for several days in a row.

Ground-level ozone triggers a variety of health problems including asthma attacks, reduced lung capacity, and increased susceptibility to respiratory illnesses like pneumonia and bronchitis. Ozone can cause permanent lung damage after long-term exposure. Ozone can irritate lung airways and cause inflammation. Other symptoms include wheezing, coughing, pain when taking a deep breath, and breathing difficulties during exercise or outdoor activities. People with respiratory problems are most vulnerable to elevated ozone levels.

KDHE Hotlines and Links for Environmental Health