Lab Matters Fall Winter 2021 - Page 10

FEATURE
Federal programs that collect climate change data include the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ’ s ( CDC ’ s ) National Environmental Public Health Tracking Network , US EPA , National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and US Global Change Research Program .
The Woolsey Fire was a destructive wildfire that burned in Los Angeles and Ventura counties , California . The fire ignited on November 8 , 2018 and burned 96,949 acres of land . The fire destroyed 1,643 structures , killed three people and prompted the evacuation of more than 295,000 people . Photo : Getty Images
There is a growing need for more climate-focused surveillance , and more data is needed to make evidence-based decisions regarding climate and health . CDC can play a vital role in helping to address these issues .”
Paul Schramm , MS , MPH
Laboratories got involved by developing two new analyses to characterize HABs , explained Pamela Higgins , PhD , special assistant to laboratory operations at DEP , during the May 2021 session .
Light microscopy allowed for identification and enumeration of the different cyanobacteria in the water . ELISA cyanotoxin assays allowed for the detection of the four most likely cyanotoxins that might be released from the bacteria . The results showed complex blooms , with 3-11 different cyanobacteria present at any one time and a composition that changes depending on the location and time of year .
On the West Coast , one of the environmental concerns is air quality from the increased frequency and intensity of wildfires . 2020 was the worst fire season on record , but 2021 fires were on pace to beat that record . In 2020 in the US , 38 % of cities had PM 2.5 levels that exceeded World Health Organization quality standards — an increase from 21 % in 2019 , according to Science X , a sci-tech news site . Wildfires were so constant that in September 2020 , 77 of the world ’ s 100 most polluted cities were in the US , according to the site .
The California Department of Public Health ’ s ( CDPH ) Environmental Health Laboratory ( EHL ) is working on a couple of projects on the impact of wildfire smoke on firefighters and residents . EHL ’ s air quality group has studies to better characterize wildfire smoke and how its composition differs from other pollution , as well as interventions to achieve cleaner indoor air spaces . The biomonitoring group has collaborated on studies of firefighters that measure chemicals in their blood and urine to see if there are elevated levels due to their time spent exposed to heavy smoke .
Another CDPH laboratory project is examining the effect that the expansion of mosquitoes and ticks has on vectorborne disease , while another study is looking at cyanotoxin in drinking water .
System and Funding Challenges
One of the challenges environmental health laboratory professionals face is the hodgepodge of federal programs that don ’ t necessarily connect to one another or to the state public health laboratories .
The CDC National Environmental Public Health Tracking Network collects , integrates and analyzes non-infectious disease and environmental data from a nationwide network of partners . The purpose is to protect the US from health issues arising from or directly related to environmental factors , says Paul Schramm , MS , MPH , in an emailed statement to Lab Matters . Schramm is a health scientist in the Climate and Health Program , Division of Environmental Health Science and Practice at the CDC ’ s National Center for Environmental Health .
For example , the online Data Explorer includes data on drought , extreme heat , precipitation and flooding , air quality , wildfires , community characteristics , population vulnerabilities and relevant health outcomes such as respiratory and cardiovascular disease . The data are free to view and download .
In partnership with the Climate and Health Program , the Tracking Network also developed the CDC Heat and Health Tracker dashboard to provide real-time heat data paired with local vulnerability data . Network health department grant recipients collect health surveillance data relevant to climate change and participate in a climate and health working group maintained by the Tracking Program .
“ There is a growing need for more climate-focused surveillance , and more data is needed to make evidence-based decisions regarding climate and health ,” says Schramm in a statement . “ CDC can play a vital role in helping to address these issues .”
Getting the Data to Help Communities
APHL has long been advocating for big data modernization and connecting the patchwork of programs to each other and to the state health departments .
8 LAB MATTERS Fall / Winter 2021
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