Text Size:    A+    A-    A      Text Only Site      Accessibility
   
Frequently Asked Questions
Return to Query Page

Portal Navigation:

Using the Portal

Topic Areas:

Age, Sex, Race & Ethnicity | Air | Asthma | Body Mass Index | Cancer | Carbon Monoxide Poisoning | Demographics | Economic Status
Educational Attainment | Family Composition | Food Alcohol Tobacco | Harmful Algal Blooms (HAB) | Heart Disease (AMI) | Heat-Related Illness
Housing | Language | Lead Poisoning (Childhood) | Population | Reproductive Outcomes | Transportation | Water Quality

 

Portal Navigation

Using the Portal

What is the purpose of this website?

How is the information organized?

What is an indicator?

How do I find out about a specific health or environmental issue?

I can see a map. How do I look at a table or graph instead?

What are the different options for looking at maps, tables or graphs?

What are the different map classification types?

I want to look at a different indicator. How do I change?

How can I print or download this information?

Why can't I find more local data or more recent data?

What's the best browser for this website?

Who is responsible for this site?

Where can I find out more about the Environmental Public Health Tracking Network?

What is the purpose of this website?

This is a web-based data query system (data portal) that brings together information about environmental hazards, human exposures and potentially related health outcomes in Oregon. You can use this information to find out about health and environmental issues in your area, or in Oregon as a whole and track them over time.

"Using the Portal" top | Page top

How is this information organized?

The data available in this portal are organized according to category, topic area, indicator and measure. The categories break information into four broad areas: Community Design (upcoming), Environmental Justice, Environmental Quality and Health Outcomes. Topic areas are further divisions of each category, such as "Air" and "Water" in the "Environmental Quality" category or "Chronic Conditions" in the "Health Outcomes" category. Indicators and measures are specific pieces of information organized within topic areas. For example, "Age-adjusted rate" is a measure of the "Cancer" indicator within the "Chronic Conditions" topic area.

"Using the Portal" top | Page top

What is an indicator?

Indicators represent specific issues which are tracked using standardized measures. Indicators are used to monitor these issues and make comparisons over time and between geographic areas. The EPHT indicators and measures are calculated using nationally consistent data and methods to maximize the ability to track comparable environmental and health conditions over time and across counties, states and the entire U.S.

An environmental health indicator refers to a specific issue or problem within a topic area. For example, the "Chronic Conditions" topic area features four indicators: "Asthma", "Body Mass Index", "Cancer" and "Heart Disease," each of which refer to a chronic health condition known to be influenced by environmental factors.

Each indicator on this portal contains a set of standardized measures. For example, the "Ozone" indicator features two measures of ozone hazard: (1) number of days over National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS), and (2) number of person-days over NAAQS.

"Using the Portal" top | Page top

How do I find out about a specific health or environmental issue?

On the portal home page, select the category of information that you are interested in: Community Design, Environmental Justice, Environmental Quality or Health Outcomes. The topic areas for that category will become visible in the next column. Once you have chosen a topic, you can choose the indicator that you would like to view and the geographic scale of the results. When you are satisfied with your selection, click the "View Report" button.

Available geographies vary by indicator. Most indicators can be viewed at the state and county level. Some are also available for census tracts or census block groups.

"Using the Portal" top | Page top

I can see a map. How do I look at a table or graph instead?

The data display page features explanatory text on the right panel and maps, tables and graphs on the tabbed pages. If available, the map tab is shown first. You can switch between the map, table and graph by clicking on the tabs across the top.

"Using the Portal" top | Page top

What are the different options for looking at maps, tables or graphs?

The initial display contains the displays that provide the best overall representation of the data for that issue. However, you may want to see something slightly different or more detailed.

On the results page there is a selection bar above the tabs with drop-down lists that allow you to choose different measures, more specific information, demographic characteristics and time periods. The options that are available vary with the indicator that has been selected.

"Using the Portal" top | Page top

What are the different map classification types?

Maps display data in categories that are defined in various ways. Each map type defines the categories and calculates the ranges using a different method. It is important to know what type of classification you are using to understand what the map means. Depending on the measure selected, the following map types are available on this portal:

  • Natural Breaks – Categories are created based on natural groupings inherent in the data to maximize the differences between the categories.
  • Equal Intervals – Data values are divided into equal ranges of values. For example, 1-100 in four categories: 1-25, 26-50, 51-75, 76-100.
  • Tritiles - Values are divided into three groups with the same number of observations in each group.
  • Quartiles - Values are divided into four groups with the same number of observations in each group.
  • Statistical Comparison – Three categories are determined by comparing the 95% confidence interval (CI) of the rate for each geographic area to the CI of the state average (higher, lower or similar to the state average). If the CIs do not overlap, there is a statistically significant difference between the values being compared.

"Using the Portal" top | Page top

I want to look at a different indicator. How do I change?

Click the "New Report" link at the top of the results page. This will return you to the query page, where you can choose a new topic, indicator and geographic area.

"Using the Portal" top | Page top

How can I print or download this information?

To save or print the map, table, graph and right panel text for your current selection, click the "Export to PDF" link at the top right of the page.

To download the data from which the map, table and graph were generated, click the "Download" link that is at the top right side of the table.

"Using the Portal" top | Page top

Why can't I find more local data or more recent data?

Our data are compiled from a large number of sources and subject to a number of legal, administrative and contract restrictions that limit how much information we can obtain and display. Most health datasets take years to collect, perform quality control and ensure completeness. As a result, it often takes two to three years before we can obtain complete data. We update this site regularly and display the most recent data available for each topic area.

To protect confidentiality we cannot display personally identifiable health data or very small geographic areas. Additionally, some of our datasets do not contain reliable geographic information below the county of residence. This means that most datasets cannot be displayed at finer resolution than the county level. Even at the county level, some data are suppressed to protect confidentiality.

"Using the Portal" top | Page top

What's the best browser for this website?

Although this portal should work in most web browsers, it was optimized for Internet Explorer 8 and Mozilla Firefox 2.0 and above.

"Using the Portal" top | Page top

Who is responsible for this site?

This portal, and the information it contains, is maintained by the Oregon Environmental Public Health Tracking program.

The Oregon Trracking program is part of the Public Health Division of the Oregon Health Authority (OHA). The program is funded through a federal grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

"Using the Portal" top | Page top

Where can I find out more about the Environmental Public Health Tracking Network?

Centers for Disease Control & Prevention – National Environmental Public Health Tracking Network
Oregon Environmental Public Health Tracking Program
YouTube – CDC's Tracking Network

"Using the Portal" top | Page top

 

Topic Areas

Age, Sex, Race & Ethnicity

Why does Oregon Tracking track age, sex, race and ethnicity?

Where do Oregon Tracking’s age, sex, race and ethnicity data come from?

How are the age, sex, race and ethnicity categories defined?

Why are age, sex, race and ethnicity data not suppressed?

Where can I find out more about age, sex, race and ethnicity?

Why does Oregon Tracking track age, sex, race and ethnicity?

Oregon Tracking age, sex, race and ethnicity measures can be used to compare populations throughout the state, calculate age-specific disease rates and identify groups at risk for disease.

The risk of noncommunicable disease accumulates with age and is influenced by factors acting at all stages of life. For example, children are vulnerable to environmental hazards because their bodily systems are still developing. Older people are another vulnerable population. They tend to exhibit slower wound healing and have a diminished immune response, making them more susceptible to environmental hazards.

Racial and ethnic minorities are also more likely to be exposed to environmental hazards at work and in their communities. In the United States, race and ethnicity are closely associated with social class. Disparities in education, income, access to health care and health outcomes persist between racial and ethnic groups, perpetuated by institutional racism and the cycle of poverty.

"Age, Sex, Race & Ethnicity" top | Page top

Where do Oregon Tracking’s age, sex, race and ethnicity data come from?

Data come from the U.S. Census Bureau, the most reliable source for demographics data for the United States.

The one-year age, sex, race and ethnicity data for states and counties come from the intercensal population estimates. The Census Bureau releases and updates these estimates annually. The intercensal estimates are based on the decennial census and adjusted using data on births, deaths and migration.

The five-year age, sex, race and ethnicity data for state, counties and census tracts come from the American Community Survey (ACS). The ACS is an ongoing survey conducted by the Census Bureau since 2005. Five years of data are combined to describe the population in each census tract and county.

"Age, Sex, Race & Ethnicity" top | Page top

How are the age, sex, race and ethnicity categories defined?

The age groups are reported in these categories: all ages, 0-4, 5-19, 20-34, 35-49, 50-64, 65-84 and 85+ years. Ethnicity categories are Hispanic and non-Hispanic. Sex categories are female and male. Race categories are American Indian/Alaska Native, Asian/Pacific Islander, Black or African American and White. A final category includes people who describe themselves with two or more races or a race that does not fit into one of the other categories.

"Age, Sex, Race & Ethnicity" top | Page top

Why are age, sex, race and ethnicity data not suppressed?

Population data are published by the Census Bureau for public use. Since these data are already public therefore there is no need to suppress them.

"Age, Sex, Race & Ethnicity" top | Page top

Where can I find out more about age, sex, race and ethnicity?

For more information about age, sex, race and ethnicity, please visit these websites.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - Health Aging
CDC Health Disparities and Inequalities Report - United States, 2011
HHS Action Plan to Reduce Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities
Oregon Office of Equity and Inclusion

"Age, Sex, Race & Ethnicity" top | Page top

Air

What is the Clean Air Act?

How is air quality monitored?

What are the advantages of monitoring air quality this way?

What are the limitations of monitoring air quality this way?

What air contaminants are tracked by Oregon Tracking?

What is ozone (O3)?

What health problems are associated with ozone exposure?

Who is at risk from ozone exposure?

How can I protect my family and myself from ozone exposure?

What are the limitations of the ozone data?

What is particulate matter (PM)?

What are PM2.5 and PM10 and what are their health effects?

Who is at risk from particulate matter exposure?

How can I protect my family and myself from PM exposure?

What are the limitations of the particulate matter data?

How will Oregon Tracking use the air quality information?

Where can I find out more about air quality?

What is the Clean Air Act?

In 1970, the Clean Air Act (CAA) was signed into law. Under this law, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sets limits on how much of a pollutant can be in the air anywhere in the United States. This ensures that all Americans have the same basic health and environmental protections. The CAA has been amended several times to keep pace with new information about the harmful effects of pollution on humans and the environment.

Under the CAA, the EPA established limits for six "criteria" air pollutants: carbon monoxide (CO), lead (Pb), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), sulfur dioxide (SO2), ozone (O3) and particulate matter (PM). These limits, called the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS), are designed to protect public health and the environment.

The CAA established two types of air quality standards. Primary standards set limits to protect public health, including the health of "sensitive" populations such as asthmatics, children and the elderly. Secondary standards set limits to protect public welfare, including protection against decreased visibility, damage to animals, crops, vegetation and buildings.

"Air Quality" top | Page top

How is air quality monitored?

The Clean Air Act requires states to establish a network of air monitoring stations to measure the amount of criteria pollutants in the air. Monitors are usually placed in urban and other densely populated areas where pollution levels are high and there are many known sources of pollution or where air quality has tended to be bad. Monitoring sites are carefully chosen and must meet stringent location, equipment and quality assurance requirements.

"Air Quality" top | Page top

What are the advantages of monitoring air quality this way?

Measuring air pollution in the places where most people live gives the best assessment of the population at risk from poor air quality. Following strict guidelines for monitoring air pollution assures good data quality. The monitors continuously measure levels of different pollutants and when they occur.

"Air Quality" top | Page top

What are the limitations of monitoring air quality this way?

Though monitoring provides a general picture of air quality, it is difficult for scientists to draw a definitive correlation between pollution data from an air monitor and health effects on people. A monitoring network in an urban area can tell you generally how much pollution is present at the monitoring stations. Typically, this a pretty accurate indicator of the amount of pollution the average person in the area is breathing. However, concentrations could be higher or lower a block away from the monitor for many reasons. An idling vehicle at an intersection or a gas-powered lawn mower can cause local variations. People standing next to these sources are exposed to more pollution than people watching from a building across the street.

Health problems related to air pollution, like an asthma attack, may occur long after the increase in pollutants that triggered them. This can make it difficult to link health problems to poor air quality. In addition, each person reacts differently to different concentrations of pollution.

"Air Quality" top | Page top

What air contaminants are tracked by Oregon Tracking?

Oregon Tracking has developed indicators to track concentrations of ambient ozone (O3) and fine particulate matter (PM2.5) in the air. These two pollutants were chosen because of their strong association with human health problems.

"Air Quality" top | Page top

What is ozone (O3)?

Ozone is an odorless, colorless gas. Ground level ozone is formed when pollutants released from cars, power plants and other sources react in the presence of heat and sunlight. It is the prime ingredient of what is commonly called "smog". Ground-level ozone is considered to be "bad" ozone because it is located where human exposure can occur.

"Good" ozone occurs naturally in the stratosphere approximately 10 to 30 miles above the earth's surface and forms a layer that protects life on earth from the sun's harmful radiation.

"Air Quality" top | Page top

What health problems are associated with ozone exposure?

People with lung disease, children, older adults and people who are active can be adversely affected when ozone levels are high.

Numerous studies have linked ground-level ozone exposure to airway irritation, coughing, wheezing, breathing difficulties during outdoor exercise, aggravation of asthma and increased susceptibility to respiratory illnesses like pneumonia and bronchitis. Repeated exposure can lead to permanent lung damage.

"Air Quality" top | Page top

Who is at risk from ozone exposure?

Individuals who are sensitive to ozone include children, the elderly, adults who are active outdoors, and people with respiratory diseases, such as asthma. Sensitive people who experience effects at lower ozone concentrations are likely to experience more serious effects at higher concentrations. When ozone levels are very high, everyone should be concerned about ozone exposure.

"Air Quality" top | Page top

How can I protect my family and myself from ozone exposure?

In many areas, local media provide air quality forecasts when ozone levels are expected to be unhealthy. The EPA Air Quality Index (AQI) has a color-coded scale to help people see when air pollution is expected to reach unhealthy levels in their area. The AQI can be used to plan daily activities, alert people to take action to reduce emissions and help people avoid unnecessary exposure to potentially harmful levels of pollution

"Air Quality" top | Page top

What are the limitations of the ozone data?

The relationship between the amount of pollution in the air and personal exposure is largely unknown. Even when high levels of pollutants are found in the air, we still can't be certain about individual exposure because absorption is dependent on a number of factors such as age, activity level, health status and genetic sensitivity.

The ambient ozone monitoring network was not designed to represent an average exposure to an area's population. Variation within counties and metropolitan areas are not captured. Within these areas, the monitor with the highest reading on any day is used to calculate the measure. Often it represents a specific area where elevated ozone is expected to occur within an air basin.

Many of the monitor locations are highly populated but some may be down wind and rural compared to the nearby urban areas. The number of days that exceed the EPA NAAQS does not provide information regarding the severity of potential exposures.

Ozone is monitored daily, but only during the ozone season, which occurs during the warm months, usually April through October. Year-long data would be very useful to evaluate if ozone is a factor in health outcomes during the non-ozone seasons.

"Air Quality" top | Page top

What is particulate matter (PM)?

Particulate matter refers to particles found in the air such as dust, dirt, soot, smoke and liquid droplets. Some particles are large or dark enough and can be seen; others are so small they can only be seen with a microscope.

Particulate pollution can be emitted directly into the air from combustion sources like motor vehicles, factories, home heating devices such as fireplaces and woodstoves. Particulates and dust from heavy equipment and activities at construction sites can also contribute directly. Particulate pollution can also be formed indirectly through the reaction of gases with sunlight and water vapor.

"Air Quality" top | Page top

What are PM2.5 and PM10 and what are their health effects?

The size of the particle determines the potential to cause health effects. Particles larger than 10 micrometers do not usually reach the lungs, but can irritate the eyes, nose and throat. Coarse particles called "PM10," have diameters from 2.5 to 10 micrometers. Fine particles, known as "PM2.5," have diameters that are 2.5 micrometers or less. These are the particles that are most hazardous to health. These tiny particles, often carrying known carcinogens and cancer causing pollutants, can move past human lung tissue and enter the bloodstream.

Exposure to PM2.5 can affect your lungs and heart. Long term exposure is associated with a variety of cardiovascular and respiratory health effects, including respiratory illness and death.

"Air Quality" top | Page top

Who is at risk from particulate matter exposure?

Sensitive groups such as older adults, individuals with chronic conditions such as asthma or congestive heart disease and children are more likely to be affected adversely by PM2.5 exposure.

People with heart and lung diseases are at increased risk because particles can exacerbate these diseases. Older adults are at increased risk because they may have undiagnosed lung or heart disease.

Children are at increased risk because their bodies are still developing and they spend more time outdoors playing, running and jumping. Children are usually very active, so they breathe more and thus, ingest more ozone. Long-term exposure may interfere with a child's developing respiratory systems, putting the child at risk for reduced lung function and other respiratory conditions later in life.

There are few if any reports of serious effects from short-term exposure in children and adults considered in a state of good health. However some may experience temporary irritations such as shortness of breath, runny nose and/or sore throat when particle levels are elevated.

"Air Quality" top | Page top

How can I protect my family and myself from PM exposure?

In many areas, local media provide air quality forecasts when particulate levels are expected to be unhealthy. The EPA Air Quality Index (AQI) has a color-coded scale to help people see when air pollution is expected to reach unhealthy levels in their area.

The AQI can be used to plan daily activities and avoid strenuous outdoor activity when pollution levels are high. Particle pollution levels tend to be highest near roadways. It is better to avoid exercising near busy roads, especially if you are at greater risk from particle pollution.

"Air Quality" top | Page top

What are the limitations of the particulate matter data?

Most PM2.5 sampling devices operate on a 1 in 6 day schedule, while a small proportion is operated on a daily or 1 in 3 day schedule. Because the majority of sampling devices do not take measurements every day, the number of short term pollution events (e.g., days exceeding the standard) is uncertain and, except where PM2.5 levels vary uniformly throughout the year, it is difficult to estimate representative short term exposures.

The annual measures provide a general indication of the overall trend in PM2.5 concentrations. However, certain areas, such as near busy roads, are likely to have higher concentrations. The measures are representative of highly populated counties that have PM2.5 sampling devices. As a result, the data tend to reflect urban air quality and longer term average air quality levels. Populations in counties without monitors may also be exposed to concentrations that exceed the standard but those concentrations may not be recorded.

The relationship between ambient concentrations and personal exposure is largely unknown and varies depending upon whether levels indoors are similar to levels outdoors and time spent in microenvironments such as cars, homes, office buildings and outdoors, where particle pollution levels are different. Even when high levels of pollutants are found, we still can't be certain about individual exposure because absorption is dependent on a number of factors such as age, activity level, health status and genetic sensitivity.

"Air Quality" top | Page top

How will Oregon Tracking use the air quality information?

Information from air quality monitors helps us determine when and where pollution levels may be adversely affecting human health. Data from monitors helps us know when to communicate about air quality so Oregonians can take action to protect themselves and reduce their exposure to potentially harmful pollution. Decision makers can use data from air quality monitors to help determine which actions are appropriate to take to reduce pollution and improve air quality. In addition, the indicators can help us make estimates about population exposure to air pollutants so that we can begin to make connections to related health problems.

"Air Quality" top | Page top

Where can I find out more about air quality?

Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry – Air Pollution
Environmental Protection Agency – AirNow
Environmental Protection Agency – Air Pollutants
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences – Air Pollution
Oregon Department of Environmental Quality – Air Quality

"Air Quality" top | Page top

 

 

Asthma

What is asthma?

What is an asthma attack?

What causes asthma?

Who is at risk?

What triggers asthma?

How do I manage my asthma?

Why is managing asthma so important?

Why does Oregon Tracking track asthma hospitalizations?

Where can I find out more about asthma?

What is asthma?

Asthma is a disease that affects the airways that carry oxygen in and out of the lungs. If you have asthma, the inside of these airways is irritated and swollen. This is called inflammation. People with asthma have sensitive airways more likely to react strongly to infections, allergens like pollen in the air, and irritants like smoke and air pollution.

"Asthma" top | Page top

What is an asthma attack?

An asthma attack is a serious problem with breathing. When people have an asthma attack, it is hard for them to breathe. Common symptoms include tightness in the chest, coughing, wheezing and struggling for air.

"Asthma" top | Page top

What causes asthma?

No one really knows what causes asthma. It is thought to be an immune response problem. People can develop asthma at any age. There is no cure for asthma, but there are ways to keep it under control.

"Asthma" top | Page top

Who is at risk?

Asthma affects people of all races and ages. More boys than girls have asthma, but in adulthood, more women than men have asthma.

Although asthma develops at all ages, it often starts in childhood and is more common among children than among adults. Half of the people with asthma developed it in childhood, usually before age 10.

Asthma is not contagious; you cannot catch it from someone else. In addition to a genetic component, children are more likely to develop asthma if they were born prematurely or if there is a smoker in the home. Young children under age three with eczema, allergies like hay fever, or severe viral infections are also more likely to develop asthma.

"Asthma" top | Page top

What triggers asthma?

Asthma attacks are caused by triggers that are different for each person. The most common indoor asthma triggers are wood or tobacco smoke, animals with fur or feathers, dust mites, mold or mildew, strong perfumes and chemical odors, such as from chlorine bleach.

Outdoor triggers include plant pollens and air pollution caused by industrial emissions and automobile exhaust. Tobacco smoke can also be an asthma trigger outdoors. Other triggers may include exercise, breathing cold air, medications, infections and stress.

"Asthma" top | Page top

How do I manage my asthma?

Work with your health care provider to develop an Asthma Action Plan to identify steps you can take to keep your asthma under control. This includes knowing what things cause asthma attacks for you, and what steps you can take to avoid these triggers. Effective management also includes the use of asthma medications and inhalers according to health care provider recommendations. For people who currently smoke, the best thing they can do for their health is to quit smoking.

"Asthma" top | Page top

Why is managing asthma so important?

The majority of problems associated with asthma, including emergency room visits and hospitalizations, are preventable if asthma is managed according to established guidelines. With effective asthma management, medical care can usually be done in an outpatient or clinic setting. The need for emergency room visits or inpatient hospitalizations can be reduced or eliminated and quality of life can be significantly improved.

"Asthma" top | Page top

Why does Oregon Tracking track asthma hospitalizations?

Asthma is the leading chronic health condition among children. There are also large racial, income and geographic disparities in poor asthma outcomes. A number of epidemiologic studies have reported associations between air pollution exposure and exacerbation of asthma.

Tracking asthma hospitalizations can aid in identifying populations or areas with inadequate routine medical care and assist in monitoring the burden of asthma, asthma trends and how asthma affects health-related quality of life.

"Asthma" top | Page top

Where can I find out more about asthma?

American Lung Association – Asthma
Asthma & Allergy Foundation of America – Asthma Overview
Centers for Disease Control & Prevention – Asthma
Environmental Protection Agency – Asthma
Oregon Asthma Program
Oregon Asthma Resource Bank

"Asthma" top | Page top

 

 

Body Mass Index

What is body mass index (BMI)?

How is BMI categorized?

Is BMI a good indicator of obesity for everyone?

Don't people lie about their weight on their driver's license?

I haven't updated the weight on my driver's license since high school. How can these data still be accurate?

How common is obesity?

What are the health consequences of obesity?

What can I do to protect my family and myself?

What is known about obesity and the environment?

Why is Oregon Tracking monitoring body mass index?

Where can I find out more about obesity?

What is body mass index (BMI)?

Body mass index (BMI) is a number calculated from a person's weight and height (body weight in kilograms divided by height in meters squared) that provides a reliable indicator of body fat for most people. It is used to screen people for overweight and obesity, high body fat conditions that can lead to health problems.

"Body Mass Index" top | Page top

How is BMI categorized?

Overweight and obesity are both labels for ranges of weight that are greater than what is generally considered healthy for a given height. The terms also identify ranges of weight that have been shown to increase the likelihood of certain diseases and other health problems. An adult who has a BMI between 25 and 29.9 kg/m2 is considered overweight. An adult who has a BMI of 30 kg/m2 or higher is considered obese.

"Body Mass Index" top | Page top

Is BMI a good indicator of obesity for everyone?

Although BMI is correlated with the amount of body fat, BMI does not directly measure body fat. As a result, some people, such as athletes, may have a BMI that identifies them as overweight even though they do not have excess body fat. While BMI may not accurately identify obesity in every individual person, it is a good measure for describing the prevalence of obesity at the population level.

"Body Mass Index" top | Page top

Don’t people lie about their weight on their driver’s license?

They sure do! Because people underreport their weight, BMI estimates from the DMV data underestimate the magnitude of average BMI and the prevalence of obesity. This effect is more pronounced among women, who are more likely than men to underestimate their weight on their driver's license. However, because this bias is consistent the DMV data are still suitable for identifying trends and spatial patterns and making comparisons.

"Body Mass Index" top | Page top

I haven't updated the weight on my driver’s license since high school. How can these data still be accurate?

Although many people have not updated their driver license weight, annual estimates of average BMI from driver licenses and ID cards trend closely with estimates from statewide telephone surveys. So, even though the height and weight information on a person’s license or ID card may be inaccurate, when many records are averaged together they produce meaningful estimates.

"Body Mass Index" top | Page top

How common is obesity?

Obesity is common. In Oregon more than 1.76 million people, or 60 percent of the adult population, were overweight or obese in 2009. Nearly 27 percent of eighth-graders and 24 percent of 11th-graders were overweight or obese in 2009. Across the U.S., among adolescents age 12-19, 18.4% were obese in 2009-2010. Eighteen percent of children age 6-11 were obese at that time, along with 12.1% of children age 2-5 years.

"Body Mass Index" top | Page top

What are the health consequences of obesity?

Obesity-related health conditions include some of the leading causes of death: heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer. Obesity can also exacerbate existing chronic illnesses, like asthma, and increases vulnerability to certain environmental hazards, such as heat.

"Body Mass Index" top | Page top

What can I do to protect my family and myself?

The obesity epidemic is fueled by declining levels of physical activity combined with increases in daily caloric intake that have resulted from a complex mix of behavioral, cultural and environmental factors. Regular physical activity and a healthy diet centered on fresh fruits and vegetables can promote weight loss and prevent obesity. Only about half of Oregon adults currently meet minimum physical activity recommendations, and only 12 percent of 11th-graders participate in daily physical education. Cutting down consumption of sugary drinks, reducing time watching television, and walking, biking or riding public transit to work also reduce obesity risk.

"Body Mass Index" top | Page top

What is known about obesity and the environment?

There is growing evidence that community design factors, such as walkability, parks and green space, transportation and availability of healthy foods, strongly influence day-to-day behaviors related to physical activity and diet. Communities that provide access to healthy options for all Oregonians, regardless of income, education or ethnicity, will reduce obesity throughout the state.

"Body Mass Index" top | Page top

Why is Oregon Tracking monitoring body mass index?

Obesity is one of the top priorities in public health today. Monitoring trends and patterns in obesity will help guide prevention efforts and evaluate the effect of interventions.

"Body Mass Index" top | Page top

Where can I find out more about obesity?

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – Overweight & Obesity
American Heart Association – Weight Management
National Cancer Institute – Energy Balance
American Cancer Society – Diet and Physical Activity
National Heart Lung and Blood Institute – Overweight and Obesity
American Diabetes Association
International Association for the Study of Obesity

"Body Mass Index" top | Page top

 

 

Cancer

What is cancer?

How does cancer spread?

What are the risk factors for cancer?

What environmental factors are known or are likely to be risks for cancer?

How common is cancer?

How can cancer be prevented?

What are the signs and symptoms of cancer?

How is cancer diagnosed?

What is a cancer cluster?

What cancer indicators are included?

What do the cancer measures mean?

Where can I find out more about cancer?

What is cancer?

Cancer is the general name for a group of more than 100 diseases in which there is uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells. It can occur in any organ and in any cell type. Cancer is the second leading cause of death in Oregon (after heart disease).

"Cancer" top | Page top

How does cancer spread?

Cancerous cells can spread into nearby tissues or be carried to other parts of the body through the blood and lymph systems where they begin to grow and form new tumors that replace normal tissue. The spread of cancerous cells to a secondary site is referred to as metastasis (from the Greek word for displacement).

"Cancer" top | Page top

What are the risk factors for cancer?

Many factors contribute to the development of cancer. Genetic make-up and compromised immunity can make people more susceptible. Smoking, obesity, poor diet, inactivity and excessive sun exposure substantially increase cancer risks. Environmental exposures and certain viral or bacterial infections also make the development of cancerous cells more likely. Most types of cancer become more common as people age.

"Cancer" top | Page top

What environmental factors are known or are likely to be risks for cancer?

Research has identified environmental risk factors for some cancers. These include exposure to radiation, air pollution (including benzene, second-hand smoke and diesel exhaust) and contact with other carcinogenic materials. Chemicals, such as arsenic and disinfection by-products, that can be present in drinking water, may also increase the risk of cancer.

"Cancer" top | Page top

How common is cancer?

Half of all men and one-third of all women in the United States will develop cancer during their lifetimes.

"Cancer" top | Page top

How can cancer be prevented?

Although some of the risk factors for cancer, such as aging and heredity, cannot be controlled, others can. Making healthy lifestyle choices can significantly lower the risk for cancer.

Quitting smoking and avoiding tobacco products is one of the most important things people can do to prevent cancer. Smoking damages nearly every organ in the body and accounts for some 30% of all cancer deaths.

Staying out of the sun between 10 am and 4 pm and consistently using sun protection reduces the risk of skin cancer, which is the most common cancer in the United States. Diet is linked to some types of cancer, although the exact reasons are not yet clear.

To reduce your risk:

  • Eat fruits and vegetables (at least 5 servings a day)
  • Choose whole grains rather than refined grains and sugars
  • Avoid red meats (beef, lamb and pork)
  • Avoid processed meats (such as bacon, lunch meats and hot dogs)
  • Maintain a healthy weight

"Cancer" top | Page top

What are the signs and symptoms of cancer?

Cancer is a group of diseases that can cause almost any sign or symptom. The signs and symptoms will depend on where the cancer is, how big it is and how much it affects the organs or tissues. If a cancer has spread (metastasized), signs or symptoms may appear in different parts of the body.

As a cancer grows, it can begin to push on nearby organs, blood vessels and nerves. This pressure causes some of the symptoms of cancer. If the cancer is in a critical area, such as certain parts of the brain, even the smallest tumor can cause symptoms.

Having any of the general cancer signs and symptoms, such as unexplained weight loss, fever, fatigue, pain and skin changes, does not mean that you have cancer. Many other illnesses cause similar symptoms. However, if you have any of these symptoms and they last for a long time or get worse, you should see a doctor.

"Cancer" top | Page top

How is cancer diagnosed?

If you have a symptom that might suggest cancer, your medical provider will ask about your medical and family history, do a physical exam and order diagnostic tests. The provider might also order a biopsy, a procedure in which a sample of tissue is removed for examination under a microscope, to determine if cancer cells are present.

"Cancer" top | Page top

What is a cancer cluster?

A cancer cluster is the occurrence of a greater than expected number of cases of a particular type of cancer within a group of people, a geographic area or a period of time. A greater-than-expected number of cancer cases may occur due to chance, inconsistencies in the way the cancer is diagnosed or reported, known causes of cancer such as smoking or because of an unknown cause.

"Cancer" top | Page top

What cancer indicators are included?

The data portal contains indicators for cancer types that have a possible relationship with exposure to environmental contaminants. These include bladder cancer, brain and central nervous system cancer, female breast cancer, leukemia, lymphocytic leukemia, myeloid leukemia, lung and bronchus cancer, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, thyroid cancer, melanoma and mesothelioma. An indicator of all cancer types combined is also provided for comparison.

"Cancer" top | Page top

What do the cancer measures mean?

Oregon Tracking provides two measures for each cancer type – the annual count of new cases and the age-adjusted rate. The count and rate for all cancer types combined are also provided for comparison.

The measures for all age groups include people of any age diagnosed with cancer. The measures for childhood cancer are for those less than 15 and less than 20 years old. Because childhood cancer is quite rare, the age-adjusted rates for these age groups are shown per 1,000,000 people rather than per 100,000 people as are the all age group rates.

"Cancer" top | Page top

Where can I find out more about cancer?

Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry – Health Effects
American Cancer Society
Centers for Disease Control & Prevention – Cancer
National Cancer Institute
North American Association of Central Cancer Registries
Oregon State Cancer Registry

"Cancer" top | Page top

 

 

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

What is carbon monoxide?

Where is carbon monoxide found and why?

Why is carbon monoxide harmful to health?

How much carbon monoxide is harmful?

In what situations can someone be exposed to harmful levels of carbon monoxide?

How can these situations be prevented?

Why does Oregon Tracking track carbon monoxide poisoning?

How does Oregon Tracking track carbon monoxide poisoning?

What are the advantages and disadvantages of tracking carbon monoxide poisoning in this way?

Where can I find out more about carbon monoxide poisoning?

What is carbon monoxide?

Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless, tasteless and colorless gas. The CO molecule contains one carbon and one oxygen atom.

"Carbon Monoxide Poisoning" top | Page top

Where is carbon monoxide found and why?

Carbon monoxide occurs naturally in the atmosphere at very low levels, typically less than 1 part per million (<1 ppm). Atmospheric CO is produced by photochemical reactions and by gas emissions from geologic events such as volcanic eruptions.

Humans produce CO when burning carbon-based materials such as oil, gasoline, natural gas, coal, wood, plant matter and trash. In ideal conditions, complete combustion links each carbon atom to two oxygen atoms to form carbon dioxide. However, outside of laboratory conditions, there is never enough oxygen for complete combustion, so some CO is formed.

CO levels are usually higher indoors than outdoors, but remain very low (<5 ppm) in most homes.

"Carbon Monoxide Poisoning" top | Page top

Why is carbon monoxide harmful to health?

When you breathe, oxygen in the air is carried to the lungs, where it bonds to red blood cells. The oxygen is then transported to all parts of the body, and enables the body to function normally.

Breathing air that contains carbon monoxide can disrupt this process because CO forms a stronger bond with red blood cells than oxygen does, preventing oxygen absorption into the blood. If too much CO is inhaled, the body cannot obtain enough oxygen to function.

This results in symptoms such as loss of judgment, headaches, nausea, confusion, dizziness and fainting. If CO concentrations are high or the exposure is prolonged, CO poisoning is lethal.

"Carbon Monoxide Poisoning" top | Page top

How much carbon monoxide is harmful?

Headaches and dizziness can occur after several hours of breathing CO in air at concentrations as low as 100 ppm (0.01% of ambient air). At concentrations around 1000 ppm (0.1%), CO can cause convulsions and nausea after 45 minutes of breathing, and unconsciousness after 2 hours.

At concentrations around 5000 ppm (0.5%), CO poisoning causes symptoms within 10 minutes and can be fatal within half an hour. If levels of CO approach 1% of ambient air, carbon monoxide poisoning can be fatal within minutes.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) defines the maximum acceptable average concentration of carbon monoxide in ambient air over an 8-hour workday as 50 ppm, and mandates that workplaces be evacuated anytime CO concentration exceeds 100 ppm.

The effects of long-term environmental exposures at concentrations lower than 100 ppm are less well understood, although such exposures have been linked to increased risk for cardiovascular disease.

"Carbon Monoxide Poisoning" top | Page top

In what situations can someone be exposed to harmful levels of carbon monoxide?

Carbon monoxide poisoning is more common in the winter. It almost always occurs indoors and most incidents occur in the home. It is usually accidental, caused by operation of gas powered generators or stoves indoors, by indoor use of barbeques, or by regular use of poorly-maintained furnaces, space heaters, water heaters and stoves.

Tobacco smokers expose themselves to low levels of carbon monoxide on a regular basis and, as a result of smoking, expose others to low levels of CO in indoor air. This may exacerbate risks associated with a long-term low-level exposure to CO.

"Carbon Monoxide Poisoning" top | Page top

How can these situations be prevented?

Never operate a generator or vehicle indoors or behind closed garage doors. Do not use gas appliances to heat your home that are not explicitly designed for home heating. Do not use a barbeque indoors. Gas, coal, oil or wood-burning appliances in your home should be serviced by a technician every year. This includes any furnaces, fireplaces, space heaters, water heaters and stoves that are not electric.

If you suspect CO poisoning and have a headache, feel dizziness or are nauseous, get some fresh air and seek medical attention immediately.

"Carbon Monoxide Poisoning" top | Page top

Why does Oregon Tracking track carbon monoxide poisoning?

Carbon monoxide poisoning is a measure of indoor air quality. Although accidental CO poisoning may be prevented through education, consistently high rates of CO poisoning may indicate that common household practices and the use of standard appliances as they are manufactured today might constitute a health risk. Tracking CO poisonings could allow EPHT to detect whether such a pattern has developed.

"Carbon Monoxide Poisoning" top | Page top

How does Oregon Tracking track carbon monoxide poisoning?

Oregon EPHT calculates carbon monoxide poisoning rates from mortality and hospitalization data and monitors trends throughout the state.

"Carbon Monoxide Poisoning" top | Page top

What are the advantages and disadvantages of tracking carbon monoxide poisoning in this way?

Mortality and hospitalizations are well-established indicators of the degree to which health problems occur in a population. However, these data rely on proper assessment of the causes of an illness. Although this is not a problem in the case of acute CO poisoning, it is much harder to know whether any deaths or hospitalizations for cardiovascular diseases could be traced back, in part, to a long-term environmental exposure to CO.

"Carbon Monoxide Poisoning" top | Page top

Where can I find out more about carbon monoxide poisoning?

Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry – Carbon Monoxide ToxFAQs™
Centers for Disease Control & Prevention – Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Environmental Protection Agency – Carbon Monoxide

"Carbon Monoxide Poisoning" top | Page top

 

 

Demographics

Why are population data important?

Where do Oregon Tracking's population data come from?

How are race and ethnicity defined?

Why are population data not suppressed?

Where can I find out more about population trends?

Why are population data important?

Population data provide important context for understanding the burden of disease and threats to health. Oregon Tracking's data measures for age, sex, race and ethnicity can be used to compare populations throughout the state, to calculate age-specific disease rates and to identify groups at risk for disease. Other measures of economic status, education, family composition and language reveal more about the population living in different areas of the state.

"Demographics" top | Page top

Where do Oregon Tracking's population data come from?

Population data come from the U.S. Census Bureau; the most reliable source of demographics data for the United States. The county-level data on age, sex, race and ethnicity come from the annual intercensal population estimates; these are estimates produced in between the decennial censuses. Other data come from the American Community Survey (ACS), an ongoing survey conducted by the Census Bureau since 2005. Five years of data are combined to describe the population in each geography.

"Demographics" top | Page top

How are race and ethnicity defined?

Race and ethnicity categories reflect social constructs and are not based on biology, anthropology or genetics. In the United States, race and ethnicity are closely associated with social class. Race (White, Black, Native American/Alaska Native, Asian/Pacific Islander) and ethnicity (Hispanic, non-Hispanic) categories are defined by the U.S. Census Bureau.

"Demographics" top | Page top

Why are population data not suppressed?

Population data are published by the Census Bureau for public use. Since these data are already public therefore there is no need to suppress them.

"Demographics" top | Page top

Where can I find out more about population trends?

U.S. Census Bureau
Portland State University Population Research Center

"Demographics" top | Page top

Economic Status

Why does Oregon Tracking track age, sex, race and ethnicity?

Where do Oregon Tracking’s economic status data come from?

How is economic status measured?

Why are economic status data not suppressed?

Where can I find out more about economic status?

Why does Oregon Tracking track age, sex, race and ethnicity?

Economic status provides important context for understanding the burden of disease and threats to health. Oregon Tracking economic status measures can be used to compare populations throughout the state and identify groups at greater risk for disease.

"Economic Status" top | Page top

Where do Oregon Tracking’s economic status data come from?

Data on economic status come from the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey (ACS). The ACS is an ongoing survey conducted by the Census Bureau since 2005. Five years of data are combined to describe the population in each census tract and county.

"Economic Status" top | Page top

How is economic status measured?

Oregon Tracking measures economic status in two ways – housing and income. Housing measures include median home value for owner-occupied homes, median rent for renter-occupied homes and apartments, and the percent of housing units that are owner-occupied or renter-occupied. Income measures include the percent of households that fall into categories based on the Federal Poverty Level, median income for households and individuals, and the GINI index of relative income inequality.

"Economic Status" top | Page top

Why are economic status data not suppressed?

Economic status data are from the U.S. Census and Oregon Tracking does not suppress data from the U.S. Census, as these data are already public record.

"Economic Status" top | Page top

Where can I find out more about economic status?

For more information about economic status, please visit these websites.

U.S. Census Bureau - American Community Survey
National Poverty Center
Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States

"Economic Status" top | Page top

Educational Attainment

Why does Oregon Tracking track educational attainment?

Where do Oregon Tracking’s educational attainment data come from?

How is educational attainment defined?

Why are educational attainment data not suppressed?

Where can I find out more about educational attainment?

Why does Oregon Tracking track educational attainment?

People with more education tend to have better health, but the association is complex. Better educated people are less likely to smoke and drink heavily, and more likely to be physically active, eat a healthy diet and receive preventative medical care. They are less likely to suffer economic hardship and report a greater sense of control over their lives and their health. People with more education also tend to have better paying jobs and thus greater access to medical care, health insurance and other resources.

"Educational Attainment" top | Page top

Where do Oregon Tracking’s educational attainment data come from?

Education data come from the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey (ACS). The ACS is an ongoing survey conducted by the Census Bureau since 2005. Five years of data are combined to describe the population in each census tract and county.

"Educational Attainment" top | Page top

How is educational attainment defined?

Oregon Tracking defines educational attainment as the highest level of education achieved. Educational attainment is categorized as: no high school diploma, high school diploma, some college, bachelor’s degree, and graduate degree.

"Educational Attainment" top | Page top

Why are educational attainment data not suppressed?

Educational attainment data is from the U.S. Census Bureau and Oregon Tracking does not suppress data from the U.S. Census, as these data are already public record.

"Educational Attainment" top | Page top

Where can I find out more about educational attainment?

For more information about education attainment, please visit these websites.

U.S. Census Bureau - American Community Survey
Education and Health: Evaluating Theories and Evidence

"Educational Attainments" top | Page top

Family Composition

Why does Oregon Tracking track family composition?

Where do Oregon Tracking’s family composition come from?

How is family composition measured?

Why are family composition data not suppressed?

Where can I find out more about family composition?

Why does Oregon Tracking track family composition?

The social support people receive from their families promotes good health. Accordingly, the composition of families is associated with health outcomes. For example, children living in married/partner households tend have greater educational attainment and be in better health than children living in single parents households or in other situations. For seniors, social isolation is associated with poorer health.

"Family Composition" top | Page top

Where do Oregon Tracking’s family composition data come from?

Data come from the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey (ACS). The ACS is an ongoing survey that has been conducted by the Census Bureau since 2005. Five years of data are combined to describe the population in each census tract and county.

"Family Composition" top | Page top

How is family composition measured?

Oregon Tracking's family composition measures about children include the percent of children under the age of 18 living in single parent households and the percent living in married/partner households. Adult measures include the percent of adults age 65 or older who are living alone, living with others and living in group quarters.

"Family Composition" top | Page top

Why are family composition data not suppressed?

Family composition data is from the U.S. Census and Oregon Tracking does not suppress data from the U.S. Census, as these data are already public record.

"Family Composition" top | Page top

Where can I find out more about family composition?

For more information about education attainment, please visit these websites.

Family Structure and Children's Health in the United States: Findings From the National Health Interview Survey, 2001 - 2007
Census Brief: Children with single parents - how they fare
Social Isolation Among Seniors: An Emerging Issue

"Family Composition" top | Page top

 

 

Alcohol Food and Tobacco

Why does Oregon Tracking monitor alcohol, food, and tobacco sale locations?

Where does the data come from?

What is considered to be a source of healthy food?

What is the difference between a convenience store and a supermarket?

Don’t grocery stores sell unhealthy foods too?

How do you know that the people who live close to a particular store actually shop there?

How are fast food restaurants distinguished from other restaurants?

I’ve heard that a lot of restaurants have meal calorie counts as high as fast food restaurants. Why is proximity to fast food restaurants specifically important?

Where can I find out more about alcohol, food, tobacco, and the built environment?

Why does Oregon Tracking monitor alcohol, food, and tobacco sale locations?

Locations of alcohol, food, and tobacco retailers are an important part of the built environment. Easy access to healthy food options is one factor that encourages a healthy diet. Conversely, access to sources of alcohol, tobacco and unhealthful food may encourage unhealthy behaviors. Although access is not the only determinant of behavior, it is one component that contributes to healthy and unhealthy choices.

Where does the data come from?

Data for this indicator comes from several sources. Alcohol outlet and tobacco retailer data comes from the Oregon Liquor Control Commission. Tobacco retailer data is collected as a part of a federal requirement that each state enforce laws that prohibit sales of tobacco products to people under the age of 18. However, not all tobacco retail outlets are included in the OLCC’s dataset. Food data comes from the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program and the Oregon Employment Department’s Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages. Street centerlines are taken from the Oregon Department of Transportation. Address data is derived from Oregon driver’s licenses. Population and land area data come from the United States Census.

What is considered to be a source of healthy food?

Full-service grocery stores, produce stands and other stores approved by the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) were designated as healthy food sources.

What is the difference between a convenience store and a supermarket?

Definitions were taken from the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS). The NAICS classification system makes a distinction between convenience stores and full service grocery stores. Convenience stores sell a limited variety of foods, and typically focus on sugar-sweetened beverages, salty snacks and other processed foods. Full-service grocery stores sell a large variety of foods, including many fresh items.

Don’t grocery stores sell unhealthy foods too?

Yes, grocery stores sell most products found in convenience stores. However, full-service grocery stores also provide access to a wide range of foods, including healthy choices such as fresh produce, whole grains and lean proteins.

How do you know that the people who live close to a particular store actually shop there?

We don’t. This measure shows how many of each type of retailer exists in a particular area, and the assumption is that most people shop in areas that are convenient to their homes. This data does not, however, directly tell us anything about who shops where.

How are fast food restaurants distinguished from other restaurants?

Definitions were taken from the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS). The NAICS makes a distinction between limited and full service restaurants, and this definition was used to classify an establishment as a source of fast food. At limited service restaurants people typically pay for their food before eating, while full service restaurants generally have table service.

I’ve heard that a lot of restaurants have meal calorie counts as high as fast food restaurants. Why is proximity to fast food restaurants specifically important?

It’s true that any restaurant may sell meals with high calorie counts. Fast food restaurants were specifically considered important because of their association with quick service of high caloric processed foods and low price points.

Where can I find out more about alcohol, food, tobacco, and the built environment?

1. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention – Alcohol & Public Health

http://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/index.htm

2. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention – Healthy Food Environment

http://www.cdc.gov/healthyplaces/healthtopics/healthyfood_environment.htm

3. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention – Smoking & Tobacco Use

http://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/

4. The Community Guide – Preventing Excess Alcohol Consumption

http://www.thecommunityguide.org/alcohol/index.html

5. The Community Guide – Reducing Tobacco Use

http://www.thecommunityguide.org/tobacco/index.html

6. Oregon Public Health Division – Built Environment

http://public.health.oregon.gov/PreventionWellness/HealthyCommunities/Pages/builtenvironment.aspx

7. United States Department of Agriculture - Food Environment Atlas

http://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/food-environment-atlas/#.VBiwZmO8E5c

8. University of Washington Center for Public Health Nutrition – Food Environment

http://depts.washington.edu/uwcphn/work/fdenv.shtml

 

 

Harmful Algal Blooms & HAB-related Illnesses

What is a harmful algal bloom?

What conditions cause a bloom to form?

Where do algal blooms occur?

Why are algal blooms a health concern?

How will I know if a toxic bloom is present?

What are the health risks posed by exposure to toxic algae?

How can I protect myself when I am at a lake where a bloom is in process?

Can I treat algae-affected water to make it safe?

Is it safe to eat fish caught in a lake with a bloom?

What about other outdoor activities?

My drinking water is from a water source that is affected by algal blooms. Am I at risk?

Where can I find out more about harmful algal blooms?

What is a harmful algal bloom?

Blue-green algae, more correctly called cyanobacteria, are microscopic organisms that grow naturally in oceans and fresh waters. Under certain conditions, some cyanobacteria can grow into a large visible mass called a bloom. If the bloom is made up of cyanobacteria species that can produce toxins, called cyanotoxins, then the bloom may be called a harmful algal bloom (HAB).

What conditions cause a harmful algal bloom to form?

Freshwater HABs are typically the result of an excess of nutrients, particularly some phosphates. The excess of nutrients may originate from fertilizers that are applied to land for agricultural or recreational purposes. They may also originate from household cleaning products containing phosphorus. These nutrients can then enter watersheds through rainwater, irrigation runoff and melting snow. Excess carbon and nitrogen have also been suspected as causes.

Where do harmful algal blooms occur?

HABs occur in many regions of the world. In the United States they are a recurring phenomena throughout the country, in both freshwater and marine environments.

Why are harmful algal blooms a health concern?

Not all blooms are harmful, but some species of cyanobacteria can produce cyanotoxins or poisons that can cause serious illness or death in pets, livestock, wildlife and humans.

How will I know if a harmful algal bloom is present?

HABs appear as thick foam or scum on the water’s surface. They can be bright green, blue-green, white or brown in color. Unfortunately, you cannot tell if abloom is toxic just by looking at it. If you come across areas of thick algae, take precaution by avoiding water contact and keeping pets out of the water.

What are the health risks posed by exposure to harmful algal blooms?

Skin irritation or rash is the most commonly reported health effect. Other symptoms range from diarrhea, cramps and vomiting to fainting, numbness, dizziness, tingling and paralysis. The most severe reactions occur when large amounts of water are swallowed. The chronic effects of long-term exposure to cyanotoxins are being studied.

How can I protect myself when I am at a lake where a harmful algal bloom is in process?

Stay out of the affected water. Keep children and pets away. Never drink or cook with the affected water. If you come in contact with the affected water, wash off thoroughly with another source of water.

Can I treat algae-affected water to make it safe?

No. Personal water filtration devices that may be purchased in outdoor recreational stores have not been proven to be effective. Boiling water will not remove the toxins.

Is it safe to eat fish caught in a lake with a harmful algal bloom?

Fish caught in affected waters pose unknown health risks. If you choose to eat them, remove all fat, skin and organs before cooking because toxins are more likely to collect in these tissues.

What about other outdoor activities?

Camping, picnicking, hiking, biking, bird watching and other activities that do not involve water contact are encouraged.

My drinking water is from a water source that is affected by harmful algal blooms. Am I at risk?

People who draw water directly from an affected water body are advised that it may be dangerous to drink. If you or your drinking water supplier uses water from an affected source, call and ask if the water has been tested. If it has not been tested, it is recommended that you use an alternative water source not affected by the bloom.

Where can I find out more about harmful algal blooms?

1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

http://www.cdc.gov/nceh/hsb/hab/default.htm

2. Environmental Protection Agency – Harmful Algal Blooms

http://www.epa.gov/gmpo/habpage.html

3. Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO – Harmful Algal Bloom Program.

http://www.ioc-unesco.org/hab/

4. Northwest Fisheries Science Center – Harmful Algal Blooms Program

http://www.nwfsc.noaa.gov/hab/index.html

5. Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution – Red Tide/Harmful Algal Bloom Education

http://www.whoi.edu/redtide/home

 

 

Heart Disease

What is heart disease?

What is a heart attack (acute myocardial infarction)?

How common are heart attacks?

What are the risk factors for heart attack?

What can I do to protect my family and myself?

What is known about heart attacks and the environment?

Why is Oregon Tracking tracking heart attacks?

Where can I find out more about heart attacks?

What is heart disease?

The term "heart disease" refers to several types of heart conditions. The most common type in the United States is coronary artery disease, which can cause heart attack, angina, heart failure, and arrhythmias. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. People of all ages and backgrounds can get the condition.

Oregon Tracking specifically tracks heart attacks because they are severe manifestations of heart disease that can be triggered by some environmental exposures and are usually documented by medical providers, so the incidence can be accurately calculated.

"Heart Disease" top | Page top

What is a heart attack (acute myocardial infarction)?

Acute myocardial infarction, also called a heart attack, occurs when the blood supply to the heart is severely reduced or completely blocked. If heart muscle cells do not receive enough oxygen they will begin to die. The more time that passes without treatment to restore blood flow, the greater the damage to the heart. This damage can cause irregular heart rhythms or even sudden cardiac arrest (stopping of the heart beat). Death can result.

Coronary artery disease is the chief underlying cause of a heart attack. A less common cause of a heart attack is a severe spasm of a coronary artery that reduces the blood supply to the heart. A heart attack survivor may have a damaged heart that affects the heart rhythm, pumping action and blood circulation. This puts heart attack victims at greater risk of having another heart attack or other events such as a stroke, kidney problems and peripheral artery problems.

"Heart Disease" top | Page top

How common are heart attacks?

In 2010 the American Heart Association estimated that 785,000 new instances of heart attack (myocardial infarction) and 470,000 recurrent attacks would occur. Among Americans age 20 and older, the heart attack prevalence is 3.6% of the US populations or 8,500,000 people (5.0 million men and 3.5 million women). The corresponding percentages by race are 5.1% for white males, 2.6% for white females, 3.6% for black males and 2.9%for black females.

"Heart Disease" top | Page top

What are the risk factors for heart attack?

There are two types of risk factors for heart attack, acquired and inherited. Acquired risk factors are those that are caused by activities that we choose to include in our lives that can be managed through lifestyle changes and clinical care. Inherited (or genetic) risk factors are characteristics that we are born with that cannot be changed, but may be improved with medical management and lifestyle changes.

Acquired (lifestyle) risk factors:

  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Low levels of HDL (high density lipoprotein) or high levels of LDL (low density lipoprotein) blood cholesterol or high triglycerides
  • Cigarette smoking and secondhand smoke
  • Stress
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Being overweight or obese

Inherited (genetic) factors include:

  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Low levels of HDL (high-density lipoprotein) or high levels of LDL (low-density lipoprotein) blood cholesterol or high triglycerides
  • Family history of early heart disease (heart disease in father or brother before age 55; heart disease in mother or sister before age 65)
  • Age
  • Diabetes mellitus

"Heart Disease" top | Page top

What can I do to protect my family and myself?

Managing your risks for a heart attack begins with becoming aware of conditions like hypertension or abnormal cholesterol levels, which may be "silent killers"; examining which risk factors apply to you and taking steps to eliminate or reduce them. Consult your healthcare provider to determine if you have risk factors that cannot be changed but can be managed medically and through lifestyle changes.

"Heart Disease" top | Page top

What is known about heart attacks and the environment?

Investigators in the both the U.S. and abroad have shown significant relationships between air pollutants and increased risk of heart attack and other forms of coronary heart disease, particularly for older adults.

Studies have demonstrated increases in heart attack hospitalization rates in relation to fine particles in the air (PM2.5) particularly in sensitive subpopulations such as the elderly, and patients with pre-existing heart disease. Exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke, a type of air pollution, has also been shown to increase in the risk of coronary heart disease.

"Heart Disease" top | Page top

Why is Oregon Tracking tracking heart attacks?

There is no single heart attack surveillance system in the US. Estimates of incidence and prevalence of heart attacks have been largely based on survey samples or large cohort studies. Tracking heart attack hospitalizations will allow examination of hospitalization trends over seasons and over years, assessment of geographic differences in hospitalization rates, analysis of disparities in heart attack hospitalizations by age or gender and identification of populations in need of targeted interventions.

"Heart Disease" top | Page top

Where can I find out more about heart attacks?

Centers for Disease Control & Prevention – Heart Disease
National Heart Lung & Blood Institute – Act in Time
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences – Air Pollution & Cardiovascular Disease
Oregon Heart Disease & Stroke Prevention Program

"Heart Disease" top | Page top

Heat-Related Illness

What is a heat-related illness?

What causes heat-related illness?

Who is at risk?

Why does Oregon Tracking track heat-related illness hospitalizations?

Where do heat-related illness data come from?

Where can I find more information about heat-related illness?

What is a heat-related illness?

Heat-related illness takes many forms. Sunburn, heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke are all examples. These conditions occur when people overexert themselves during hot weather. This can overwhelm the body’s ability to cool itself. Heat exhaustion results from loss of fluid through sweating. Symptoms include confusion, weakness, nausea, vomiting, headache, rapid heartbeat and abnormally low blood pressure. Untreated heat exhaustion can progress to heat stroke, the most serious form of heat-related illness. Heat stroke occurs when a person’s sweating mechanism shuts down. The core body temperature rises above 104°F, which damages cells in vital organs, such as the brain, liver and kidneys. Death may occur rapidly due to cardiac failure or depletion of oxygen in the blood. It can occur days later as a result of kidney damage from dehydration.

"Heat-Related Illnes" top | Page top

What causes heat-related illness?

Heat-related illness is caused when the body overheats and is unable to cool itself. When body temperature rises, the body will sweat and circulate blood closer to the skin’s surface to increase cooling. If heat exposure exceeds the body’s ability to cool, and core body temperature rises, then heat-related illness symptoms can occur.

"Heat-Related Illnes" top | Page top

Who is at risk?

Any individual is at risk for a heat-related illness if they are engaged in any intense physical activity and/or exposed to high temperatures. Additionally, people with chronic health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and obesity are more susceptible to the effects of heat than healthy individuals.

"Heat-Related Illnes" top | Page top

Why does Oregon Tracking track heat-related illness hospitalizations?

Oregon Tracking tracks heat-related illness because it helps measure the total burden of heat illness. Experts predict that climate change will cause more frequent, intense and longer heat waves, and expect heat-related illnesses to become more common. Tracking these data can help document changes over place and time, monitor vulnerable areas, and evaluate the results of local climate-adaption strategies.

"Heat-Related Illnes" top | Page top

Where do heat-related illness data come from?

Heat-related illness data come from the inpatient hospital discharge data. Only hospitalizations with a primary diagnosis of heat-related illness (ICD-9 code 992) are included in the measures. These measures are based on hospitalizations that occurred between May and September, months when high temperatures are most common.

"Heat-Related Illnes" top | Page top

Where can I find more information about heat-related illness?

For more information about heat-related illness, please visit these websites.

MedlinePlus – Heat illness
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – Tips for preventing heat-related illness
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) – Heat Stress

"Heat-Related Illnes" top | Page top

Housing

Why does Oregon Tracking track housing?

Where do Oregon Tracking’s housing data come from?

How is housing measured?

Why are housing data not suppressed?

Where can I find out more about housing?

Why does Oregon Tracking track housing?

Shelter is a basic human need. Stable, affordable housing, free from hazards such as mold and lead-based paint, can provide an environment in which people can thrive. Housing can be expensive and measures of housing cost burden reflect economic conditions and financial stress. Households that spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing are considered to be cost burdened, which leaves less resources to spend on other needs such as food, transportation and medical care. The age of a home can also increase the risk of exposure to lead-based paint. The major source of lead exposure today is lead-based paint and lead-contaminated dust in older buildings. Most homes built before 1960 contain heavily leaded paint and some homes built as recently as 1978 may also contain lead-based paint.

"Housing" top | Page top

Where do Oregon Tracking’s housing data come from?

Data on affordability and housing age come from the U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey (ACS). The ACS is an ongoing survey conducted by the Census Bureau since 2005. Five years of data are combined to describe the population in each block group, tract, county and state. The subsidized housing data come from Oregon Housing and Community Services.

"Housing" top | Page top

How is housing measured?

Oregon Tracking monitors three types of housing measures: affordability, age and subsidized units. Affordability measures include the median cost burden and the percent of households that spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing. These measures are also available by owners and renters separately. The housing age measures are the number and percent of homes build before 1950, built before 1979 and built between 1950 and 1979. The subsidized housing measure is the percent of subsidized project-based housing units. This measure does not include tenant-based vouchers since it is not possible to reliably locate the households receiving these subsidies geographically.

"Housing" top | Page top

Why are housing data not suppressed?

Oregon Tracking does not suppress data from the Census Bureau or Oregon Housing and Community Services, as these data are public record.

"Housing" top | Page top

Where can I find out more about economic status?

For more information about housing , please visit these websites.

U.S. Census Bureau - American Community Survey
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development – Project based vouchers
Oregon Housing and Community Services
Oregon Public Health Division – Lead poisoning and exposure to lead

"Housing" top | Page top

Language

Why does Oregon Tracking track language?

Where do Oregon Tracking’s language data come from?

How is language measured?

Why are language data not suppressed?

Where can I found out more about language?

Why does Oregon Tracking track language?

Oregon Tracking tracks language because those who do not speak English, or do not speak English very well, are a vulnerable population. Public education and outreach campaigns may not reach people who cannot speak English. Not speaking English well can also keep people from accessing good jobs or resources, like driver licenses. Non-English-speaking patients receive fewer preventative care services and have less access to care than English-speaking patients. For reasons like these, people who do not speak English, or do not speak English very well, are a vulnerable population.

"Language" top | Page top

Where do Oregon Tracking’s language data come from?

Language data come from the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey (ACS). The ACS is an ongoing survey conducted by the Census Bureau since 2005. Five years of data are combined to describe the population in each census tract and county.

"Language" top | Page top

How is language measured?

Oregon Tracking's language measures are the percent of people who speak English and the percent who do not speak English well, which includes those who do not speak English at all.

"Language" top | Page top

Why are language data not suppressed?

Language data is from the U.S. Census and Oregon Tracking does not suppress data from the U.S. Census, as these data are already public record.

"Language" top | Page top

Where can I found out more about language?

For more information about language characteristics, please visit these websites.

Disparities in Health Coverage, Access, and Quality: The Impact of Citizenship Status and Language on Low-Income Immigrants
The Language Spoken at Home and Disparities in Medical and Dental Health, Access to Care, and Use of Services in US Children
HHS Action Plan to Reduce Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities

"Language" top | Page top

 

 

Lead Poisoning (Childhood)

What is lead?

Why is lead an environmental public health issue?

What do we know about the health effects of lead?

How are children exposed to lead?

Why are we tracking childhood lead poisoning and sources of lead?

How do we track childhood lead poisoning?

What is the role of public health in preventing childhood lead poisoning?

Who is at risk for lead poisoning?

What factors increase the risk?

What can I do to protect my family?

What tests or treatments are available?

How can Oregon Tracking help eliminate childhood lead poisoning in Oregon?

Where can I find out more about lead poisoning?

What is lead?

Lead is a naturally occurring bluish-gray metal found in small amounts in the earth's crust. Lead can be found in all parts of our environment. Much of it comes from human activities including mining, manufacturing and burning fossil fuels.

Lead has been used in our society in a variety of products: paint, gasoline and some vinyl products. It is used to produce batteries, ammunition, metal products (solder and pipes) and devices to shield X-rays.

"Lead Poisoning (Childhood)" top | Page top

Why is lead an environmental public health issue?

People may be exposed to lead by breathing or swallowing lead or lead dust in their environment. Once it has entered the body, lead accumulates and can become a health hazard. Because of health concerns, lead in paints and ceramic products, and pipe solder has been dramatically reduced.

Lead-based paints were banned for use in housing in 1978. Using lead as a gasoline additive was also banned in the United States in 1996. However, lead can still be found in our environment and people, especially children, are still being exposed.

"Lead Poisoning (Childhood)" top | Page top

What do we know about the health effects of lead?

The effects of lead are the same whether it enters the body through breathing or swallowing. Lead can affect almost every organ and system in the body. The main target for lead toxicity is the nervous system, both in adults and children.

Lead poisoning can cause learning disabilities and behavioral problems. At very high levels it can cause seizures, comas and even death. Because lead poisoning often occurs with no obvious symptoms, it frequently goes unrecognized.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) currently considers a blood lead level (BLL) of 10 micrograms of lead per deciliter (µg/dL) or greater to be elevated and requires individual case management. While this is the current action level, no amount of lead is safe.

Children are more vulnerable to lead poisoning than adults. The first six years of life, particularly the first three, are when the human brain grows the fastest. The critical connections in the brain and other parts of the nervous system that control thought, learning, hearing, movement, behavior and emotions form during these early years.

"Lead Poisoning (Childhood)" top | Page top

How are children exposed to lead?

In the United States, the major source of lead exposure among children is lead-based paint chips and lead-contaminated dust found in older buildings. Lead-based paints were banned for use in housing in 1978. Homes and other buildings built before 1978, and especially those built before 1950, may contain lead-based paint.

Deteriorating paint that is chipping, flaking and/or peeling and paint disturbed during home remodeling contribute to lead dust, contaminate bare soil around a home, and make paint chips and dust containing lead accessible.

The normal behavior of young children – crawling, exploring, teething and putting objects in their mouths – can put them into contact with any lead present in their environment. Children can be exposed to lead by chewing objects containing lead or breathing or swallowing lead dust or soil that contains lead.

Lead from sources other than lead paint may also present a hazard. Other sources of lead poisoning may include:

  • Hobbies (making stained-glass windows, hunting, fishing, target shooting)
  • Work (recycling or making automobile batteries, painting, radiator repair)
  • Drinking water (lead pipes, solder, brass fixtures and valves that can all leach lead)

"Lead Poisoning (Childhood)" top | Page top

Why are we tracking childhood lead poisoning and sources of lead?

Childhood lead poisoning is a preventable health problem. Before the use of lead was restricted, approximately 88% of preschool children in the United States had levels of lead in their blood high enough to potentially cause serious health effects.

Since the use of lead has been restricted, the amount of lead in the environment has declined by 90%. However, lead poisoning still occurs. An estimated 310,000 U.S. children aged 1 to 5 years old have blood lead levels greater than 10 µg/dL, the level at which CDC recommends action.

The main source of childhood lead poisoning is lead-based paint in older homes. It is estimated that twenty-four million housing units in the United States have peeling or chipping lead-based paint and high levels of lead-contaminated house dust. More than 4 million of these dwellings are homes for one or more young children.

The key to preventing lead poisoning in children is to prevent them from coming into contact with lead by removing potential lead sources from their environment. Identifying and treating those children who have been poisoned will reduce its impacts.

By tracking children with lead poisoning and the sources of lead, we can:

  • Identify children at risk in order to target testing and resources;
  • Make case management services available to each child with lead poisoning;
  • Monitor progress towards eliminating childhood lead poisoning;
  • Identify and monitor trends in lead sources that are exposing children to lead;
  • Develop and evaluate interventions and programs.

"Lead Poisoning (Childhood)" top | Page top

How do we track childhood lead poisoning?

Never operate a generator or vehicle indoors or behind closed garage doors. Do not use gas appliances to heat your home that are not explicitly designed for home heating. Do not use a barbeque indoors. Gas, coal, oil or wood-burning appliances in your home should be serviced by a technician every year. This includes any furnaces, fireplaces, space heaters, water heaters and stoves that are not electric.

"Lead Poisoning (Childhood)" top | Page top

What is the role of public health in preventing childhood lead poisoning?

The role of public health is to maintain a system to identify children with elevated blood lead levels, ensure that screening, lead-hazard reduction and other prevention interventions occur, prevent environmental exposures through monitoring lead-based paint activities, increase awareness about preventing lead poisoning in homes that contain lead paint and support lead abatement legislation.

"Lead Poisoning (Childhood)" top | Page top

Who is at risk for lead poisoning?

Children under 3 years old are at the greatest risk for lead poisoning because they are growing rapidly and because they tend to put their hands and other objects into their mouths. Children from all social and economic levels can be affected by lead poisoning, although children living in poverty in older housing in poor repair are at the greatest risk. Pregnant women are also a vulnerable group because their lead exposure directly affects the developing fetus.

"Lead Poisoning (Childhood)" top | Page top

What factors increase the risk?

Living in housing built before 1978, when lead-based paint was banned from residential use, is the main risk factor for lead poisoning. The older a home, the more likely it is to contain lead paint. Deteriorating paint that is chipping, flaking and/or peeling and paint disturbed during home remodeling contribute to lead dust, contaminates bare soil around a home, and makes paint chips and dust containing lead accessible to children.

Jobs and hobbies that require handling of lead-containing materials may also present risks. In addition, drinking water in homes with old plumbing can be a source of lead.

"Lead Poisoning (Childhood)" top | Page top

What can I do to protect my family?

  • Ask a doctor to test your child if you are concerned about exposure to lead.
  • Talk to your state or local health department for guidance about testing paint and dust from your home for lead if you live in a home built before 1978. Free testing may be available in the Portland metro area and inexpensive test kits are sold commercially at hardware and specialty stores.
  • Damp-mop floors, damp-wipe surfaces, and frequently wash a child's hands, pacifiers and toys to reduce exposure to lead.
  • Leave shoes at the door. Studies have shown that substantial lead exposures, particularly for children who spend time crawling and playing on the floor, are linked to materials tracked into the house on the bottoms of shoes.
  • Use only cold water from the tap for drinking, cooking and making baby formula. Hot water is more likely to contain higher levels of lead because it dissolves lead more quickly than cold water. Most of the lead in household water comes from the plumbing in a house, not from the local water supply.
  • Take basic steps to decrease your exposure to lead. For example, shower and change your clothes after finishing remodeling tasks in buildings built before 1978 or if your work or hobbies involve lead products.
  • Avoid do-it-yourself remodeling of an older home if you are not specifically trained in lead safety issues. Consult a professional certified to work with lead paint before beginning major renovation on an older home likely to contain lead paint.

"Lead Poisoning (Childhood)" top | Page top

What tests or treatments are available?

A blood test is available to measure the amount of lead in your blood and estimate your recent exposure. Blood tests are commonly used to screen children for lead poisoning and can be easily conducted in your medical provider's office.

The most important treatment for lead poisoning is to prevent additional lead exposure. Properly removing the lead from a person's environment helps to ensure a decline in blood-lead levels.

The longer a person is exposed to lead, the greater the likelihood that damage to health will result. At very high blood lead levels, health care providers may prescribe medications to lower blood-lead levels in a treatment known as chelation therapy.

"Lead Poisoning (Childhood)" top | Page top

How can Oregon Tracking help eliminate childhood lead poisoning in Oregon?

Environmental public health data on the number of children tested and the number of children with elevated blood lead levels will be made available through the Oregon Tracking data portal. Parents, teachers, doctors and public health professionals will be able to use the information to better protect their own children and to support public health actions that are designed to protect all Oregon children.

"Lead Poisoning (Childhood)" top | Page top

Where can I find out more about lead poisoning?

Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry – Lead ToxFAQs™
Centers for Disease Control & Prevention – Lead
Environmental Protection Agency – Lead National Center for Healthy Housing – Lead
Oregon Lead Poisoning Prevention Program

"Lead Poisoning (Childhood)" top | Page top

Population

Why does Oregon Tracking track population?

Where do Oregon Tracking’s population data come from?

How is population measured?

Why are population data not suppressed?

Where can I find out more about population?

Why does Oregon Tracking track population?

Data on where Oregonians live and work is important for understanding numbers of people who may be affected by environmental hazards.

"Population" top | Page top

Where do Oregon Tracking’s population data come from?

Population data come from the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey (ACS). The ACS is an ongoing survey conducted by the Census Bureau since 2005. Five years of data are combined to describe the population in each census tract and county.

"Population" top | Page top

How is population measured?

Oregon Tracking publishes several population measures. Population size is the number of households, residents or employees in an area. Population density is the number of households, residents or employees per square mile. The ratio of residents to employees in an area is also measured.

"Population" top | Page top

Why are population data not suppressed?

Oregon Tracking does not suppress data from the U.S. Census, as these data are already public record.

"Population" top | Page top

Where can I find out more about population?

For more information about population characteristics, please visit these websites.

U.S. Census Bureau - American Community Survey
Oregon Census State Data Center
Demographic Trends in the 20th Century

"Population" top | Page top

 

 

Reproductive Outcomes

Why are we concerned about pollution and environmental exposures?

What is prematurity?

Why should we be concerned about preventing premature births?

What causes premature birth?

What is low birthweight?

Why should we be concerned about preventing low birthweight?

What is infant mortality?

What causes infant mortality?

What is the sex ratio at birth?

What is the role of environmental exposures in birth outcomes?

Where can I find out more about reproductive outcomes?

Why are we concerned about pollution and environmental exposures?

During pregnancy, the growing fetus is developing vital organ systems. There are critical times during which environmental exposures could damage fetal growth and functioning.

Research on reproductive and birth outcomes has improved our understanding of the risks of several substances found in the environment. However, results from research into the roles of specific environmental hazards have been inconsistent. Some studies have found increased rates of adverse birth outcomes while other studies have found no effect.

The following risk factors reflect the limited knowledge of the environment's role:

  • Secondhand smoke exposure to nonsmoking pregnant women is a risk factor for some adverse birth outcomes.
  • A limited body of evidence points to a link between components of air pollution and adverse birth outcomes.
  • Pesticides that have been associated with fetal death include:
    - Herbicides
    - Organochlorines
    - Organophosphates
  • A 2004 research review concluded that occupational exposure to pesticides may contribute to intrauterine growth retardation and fetal death but more data is needed.

Few studies of environmental hazards and birth outcomes have examined the interactive effects of exposure to multiple pollutants, or of co-exposure to pollutants and parental factors such as adverse social conditions. These conditions may include living in poverty, crime, poor health and lack of access to medical care.

"Reproductive Outcomes" top | Page top

What is prematurity?

Premature births are those occurring after less than 37 completed weeks of gestation. More than 12.5% of live births in the US, or 500,000 births per year, are premature. The majority of premature babies (about 84%) are born moderately premature (between 32 and 36 completed weeks of gestation). About 16% are born very premature (at less than 32 weeks of gestation); of those, about 10% are born between 28-31 weeks of gestation and about 6% are born at less than 28 weeks of gestation.

"Reproductive Outcomes" top | Page top

Why should we be concerned about preventing premature births?

Premature birth is a leading cause of infant mortality, morbidity and long-term disability. All infants born premature are at risk for serious health problems and complications but those born earliest are at the greatest risk. The earlier a baby is born, the less it will weigh, the less developed its organs will be and the more medical complications it will likely face later in life.

Very premature infants have the greatest risk of death and lasting disabilities, including mental retardation, cerebral palsy, respiratory and gastrointestinal problems and vision and hearing loss. Premature births account for health care expenditure of over $3 billion per year.

Women who are pregnant or may become pregnant should comply with the following advice to both improve their own health and lower their risk of having a premature baby:

  • Quit smoking and avoid secondhand smoke.
  • Do not use alcohol or illegal drugs.
  • See a health care provider for a medical checkup before becoming pregnant.
  • Work with a health care provider to control diseases such as high blood pressure or diabetes.
  • Get prenatal care as early as possible and continue care throughout the pregnancy.
  • Discuss concerns during pregnancy with a health care provider, and seek medical attention for any warning signs or symptoms of premature labor.

"Reproductive Outcomes" top | Page top

What causes premature birth?

Premature births can occur for a number of reasons; many women who have a premature birth have no known risk factors. However, there are some known risk factors, but it is important to remember that even if a woman does everything "right" during pregnancy, a premature infant may still be born. The presence of risk factors does not mean a woman will have a premature birth and conversely, when they are absent, it does not mean the risk is zero.

The known risk factors for premature birth are:

  • Carrying multiple fetuses (twins, triplets, quadruplets or more)
  • Having a previous premature birth
  • Problems with the uterus or cervix
  • Chronic maternal health problems such as high blood pressure, diabetes and clotting disorders
  • Certain infections during pregnancy
  • Cigarette smoking, alcohol use or illicit drug use during pregnancy
  • Exposure to secondhand smoke

Other potential risk factors for premature birth are:

  • Mother's age, race, and income level
    - African-American women, women younger than 17 years and older than 35 years and poor women are at greater risk
  • Male babies, associated with singleton premature birth
  • Certain lifestyles and environmental factors, including:
    - Late or no prenatal care
    - Social and economic factors such as domestic violence, lack of social support, stress, and marital status
    - Long working hours with long periods of standing
    - Being underweight or overweight before pregnancy
    - Spacing of births, less than 6-9 months between birth and the beginning of the next pregnancy
    - Environmental exposures such as air pollution or drinking water contaminated with lead

"Reproductive Outcomes" top | Page top

What is low birthweight?

Birth weight is the weight of the newborn measured immediately after birth. An infant is considered to be of low birthweight when its weight is less than 2500 grams (5 lbs. 8 oz) at birth. A low birthweight infant can be born too soon (premature), too small (growth retarded) or both. These conditions often have separate causes. Specific factors may be related to one of these conditions but not the other. For example, smoking during pregnancy is more related to infants born too small than too early. For this reason, low birth weight is tracked using only infants who are born full-term.

"Reproductive Outcomes" top | Page top

Why should we be concerned about preventing low birthweight?

Infant birthweight is a predictor of future morbidity and mortality, especially for very low birthweight (<1500 g or 3 lbs. 5 oz) infants. The risk of dying in the first year of life is estimated to be about 100 times higher for very low birthweight infants than for normal weight infants. Compared to infants of normal weight, low birthweight infants may be at increased risk of perinatal illnesses and long-term consequences of impaired development, such as delayed motor and social development and learning disabilities.

The risk for low birth weight may be increased by the following risk factors:

  • Maternal smoking
  • Maternal alcohol consumption
  • Inadequate maternal weight gain
  • Mothers younger than 15 years and older than 35 years
  • Social and economic factors (e.g. low income, low educational level, stress, domestic violence or abuse and unmarried)
  • Mothers who have had a previous premature birth
  • Environmental exposures such as air pollution (both indoor and outdoor), drinking water contaminated with lead and pesticides

The presence of risk factors does not mean that an infant will have low birthweight and conversely, when they are absent, it does not mean the risk is zero.

"Reproductive Outcomes" top | Page top

What is infant mortality?

Infant mortality occurs when an infant dies in the first year of life. Infant mortality is sub-classified into perinatal, neonatal and postneonatal mortality. Perinatal mortality includes fetal death of 28 weeks gestation or more and infant deaths in the first 6 days of life. Neonatal mortality is an infant death which occurs in the first 27 days of life. Postneonatal mortality is a death which occurs from 28 days up to a year of life.

Healthcare providers should advise their patients about factors that affect birth outcomes, such as maternal smoking, illegal drug and alcohol abuse, poor nutrition, stress, insufficient prenatal care, chronic illness, or other medical problems.

"Reproductive Outcomes" top | Page top

What causes infant mortality?

Infants can die for a number of reasons, some of which are unknown. There are many known factors that are linked to an increased risk of infant mortality. The fetus and infant may be particularly susceptible to harmful effects of environmental contaminants; however, environmental exposure-related causes of infant death are only one factor. The presence of risk factors does not mean that an infant will die and conversely, when they are absent, it does not mean the risk is zero.

The leading causes of infant death include:

  • Congenital abnormalities
  • Prematurity
  • Low birthweight
  • Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
  • Problems related to pregnancy complications
  • Respiratory distress syndrome

Some factors that affect infant mortality are:

  • Smoking
  • Substance abuse
  • Poor nutrition
  • Lack of prenatal care
  • Access and quality of health care
  • Competency in childcare and injury prevention
  • Medical problems
  • Chronic illness
  • Environmental factors such as air pollution and pesticide exposure

Parents and caregivers should always place sleeping infants on their backs. Research has demonstrated that infants who sleep on their stomachs or sides are at higher risk for SIDS. A sleeping environment separate from the parents' bed, such as a crib in the parents' bedroom, is recommended.

"Reproductive Outcomes" top | Page top

What is the sex ratio at birth?

The sex ratio at birth is the ratio of male to female births. The expected sex ratio at birth (male to female) is 1.05.

Population growth is, in part, related to the number of live male children. Numerous studies have reported changes in the ratio of males to females at birth. How the sex of an infant is determined is unclear. Some scientists have suggested that environmental hazards can affect how many males are born. Parents and the fetus can come in contact with, and become exposed to, substances referred to as endocrine disruptors. Fewer males are conceived when exposure to endocrine disruptors causes a decrease in testosterone.

Factors other than endocrine disruptors can affect the expression of sex. Parental smoking, longer gestation length, older parental age, and higher birth order are all related to decreases in male births. Reproductive practices and social mores regarding sex preferences of males over females, for example, can affect the observed sex ratio.

"Reproductive Outcomes" top | Page top

What is the role of environmental exposures in birth outcomes?

Increases in low birthweight babies have been associated with exposure during pregnancy to lead, solvents, pesticides, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and air pollution. Increases in risk of prematurity or premature delivery have been related to exposures during pregnancy to air pollution, lead, some solvents, the pesticide DDT and di-ethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP).

Approximately 10% of problems with fertility are unknown. Environmental contaminants, including endocrine disruptors, have been hypothesized as major contributors. The case of diethylstilbestrol (DES), a synthetic estrogen prescribed to pregnant women from 1938-1971 to prevent miscarriage, revealed that some chemicals can have multi-generational impacts on reproduction that need to be studied over decades.

Numerous studies in various countries throughout the world have reported changes in the ratio of males to females at birth. Although the mechanism which determines the sex of the infant is not completely understood, it has been suggested that environmental hazards can affect how many males are born.

Although the fetus and infant may be particularly susceptible to harmful effects of environmental contaminants, environmental exposure-related causes of adverse birth outcomes are only one factor. There are many other important risk factors to consider.

"Reproductive Outcomes" top | Page top

Where can I find out more about reproductive outcomes?

Centers for Disease Control & Prevention – Reproductive Health
March of Dimes – Environmental Risks & Pregnancy
National Institute of Child Health & Human Development – Reproductive Health Oregon Center for Health Statistics
Oregon Office of Family Health

"Reproductive Outcomes" top | Page top

Transportation

Where does the data come from?

What is active transportation?

What are the benefits of active transportation?

How does safety affect walking and bicycling?

How does taking public transportation increase physical activity?

Why doesn’t Oregon Tracking measure methods of travel for destinations other than work?

Why is intersection density important?

Where can I find out more about transportation and health?

Where does the data come from?

The data for the transportation measures come from several sources. Data on the working population and commuting practices come from the U.S. Census Bureau. Road locations and transit stops come from the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT). Urban growth boundary locations come from the Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development.

"Transportation" top | Page top

What is active transportation?

Active transportation is any method of travel to a particular destination that involves physical activity. This includes walking, bicycling or taking public transportation (because one typically walks or bikes to get to a transit stop).

"Transportation" top | Page top

What are the benefits of active transportation?

Active transportation provides an opportunity to be more physically active. Many adults and teens in the United States do not get the recommended levels of daily physical activity; using active transportation is one way to get daily activity. Meeting physical activity recommendations is an important factor in preventing chronic diseases like breast and colon cancer, heart disease and diabetes.

Higher rates of people using active transportation reduce traffic congestion and improve air quality. Particulate matter found in vehicle emissions has been shown to predict higher rates of heart attacks and respiratory diseases. Increased use of active transportation may also reduce traffic related injuries and deaths.

Finally, active transportation is typically free or low-cost, compared to owning and operating a vehicle. Affordable and accessible active transportation options enable people to devote more resources to food, housing, and other essential needs.

"Transportation" top | Page top

How does safety affect walking and bicycling?

Safety is an important factor in most people’s decisions to use active transportation. The transportation engineering field has a significant body of research on which community designs create greater safety. For example, sidewalks and bike lanes encourage walking and bicycling. Busy streets, incomplete sidewalks and disconnected bike lanes discourage walking and bicycling.

"Transportation" top | Page top

How does taking public transportation increase physical activity?

Most people who take public transportation walk or bicycle to and from their bus or train stop. Research suggests that transit users spend more minutes walking or biking and that this physical activity is directly related to accessing public transportation. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic physical activity per week. This physical activity can be spread out over the course of the week, and can occur in as little as 10-minute increments. In many cases, making trips by walking or biking to transit add up which helps people meet this recommendation.

"Transportation" top | Page top

Why doesn’t Oregon Tracking measure methods of travel for destinations other than work?

Oregon Tracking’s data for active transportation in Oregon comes from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. This survey only asks questions about methods of travel to work.

"Transportation" top | Page top

Why is intersection density important?

Intersection density is a measure of how walkable an area is. Areas with high intersection density typically have smaller blocks that contain compact development and are easier for pedestrians to walk through. Intersections are safer and convenient places for pedestrians to cross streets because they slow down car traffic.

"Transportation" top | Page top

Where can I find out more about transportation and health?

For more information about population characteristics, please visit these websites.

American Community Survey
Centers for Disease Control: Physical Activity
Centers for Disease Control: Transportation
Environmental Protection Agency: Smart growth
Oregon Health Authority: Built Environment
American Planning Association: Planning and Community Health Center
U.S. Department of Transportation: Statewide Transportation Planning for Healthy Communities
American Public Health Association: Transportation
Every Body WALK!
Surgeon General: Walking and Walkability
Urban Land Institute: Building Healthy Places

"Transportation" top | Page top

 

 

Water Quality

How is drinking water quality monitored in Oregon?

What is the difference between a 'public' and a private 'domestic' water system?

Why is drinking water an environmental public health issue?

What drinking water contaminants are tracked by EPHT?

What is arsenic (As) and what are the health effects of exposure?

What are disinfection byproducts (DBP) and their health effects?

Are TTHM and HAA5 the only disinfection byproducts?

What is nitrate (NO3) and what are the health effects of exposure?

What are the health risks of other drinking water contaminants?

If my water comes from a domestic well, how do I protect myself?

Where can I find out more about water quality?

How is drinking water quality monitored in Oregon?

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates drinking water quality in public water systems and sets maximum concentration levels for contaminants. The Oregon Health Authority Drinking Water Program administers and enforces drinking water quality standards for public water systems in Oregon. Safe drinking water means water sufficiently free from biological, chemical, radiological and physical substances such that individuals consuming it will not be exposed to disease or harmful health effects.

The safety of drinking water distributed by public water systems in Oregon is regulated under state law, ORS 448 and OAR 333-061, and by the federal Safe Drinking Water Act. However, these standards do not cover private domestic wells that are used as a source of drinking water.

"Water Quality" top | Page top

What is the difference between a 'public' and a private 'domestic' water system?

Most drinking water, particularly in urban areas, is obtained through public water systems that serve multiple homes or entire communities. These can be groundwater wells or surface water intakes (pipes drawing from streams and rivers). If a well or intake serves more than 3 homes or connections, it is regulated as a public water system in Oregon.

Public water systems are classified by the number of connections, and the number of people served:

  • Community Water Systems (CWS) have 15 or more service connections used year–round or regularly serve 25 or more year-round residents.
  • Non-Transient Noncommunity (NTNC) systems regularly serve at least 25 of the same people over six (6) months of the year. Examples are schools and places of employment.
  • Transient Noncommunity Systems serve 25 or more persons per day. These are water systems that provide water to a transient population. Examples include restaurants, campgrounds, taverns, parks, rest areas, motels, and recreational facilities.
  • State-Regulated systems have 4 to 14 service connections or serve 10 to 24 people on a daily basis. Examples are very small mobile home parks and rural developments.

In Oregon, 88% of the population obtains their primary drinking water from a community water system. This is very similar to the national average of 89%.

In rural areas, household drinking water is often obtained through a domestic water supply from a private well. In Oregon, private wells that supply water for domestic purposes are required to be tested for nitrate, coliform bacteria and arsenic when a property is sold. The results are reported to the Drinking Water Program, but there are no regulations to assure the safety of the water. The data collected are the only comprehensive information available on drinking water from these unregulated domestic water supplies.

"Water Quality" top | Page top

Why is drinking water an environmental public health issue?

On average, every person consumes more than a quart of water each day. As a result, drinking water is a potentially significant route of exposure for hazardous substances. Today's regulatory programs are designed to monitor public drinking water supplies across the United States to assure public health protection from contamination.

Drinking water contaminants can cause two general kinds of harmful health effects:

  • Acute health effects generally occur within hours or days of exposure and may result from consumption of very small amounts of water containing natural pathogens such as Salmonella and Shigella; however, some chemicals (nitrate) can cause acute effects if present in high enough concentrations.
  • Chronic health effects, such as organ damage, generally result from prolonged exposure to drinking water contaminants at low to moderate concentrations. The onset of disease may take many years to occur. Chronic health effects are usually associated with chemical contaminants, such as lead and arsenic.

Every drinking water supply is vulnerable to microbial or chemical contamination from a variety of sources. Dangerous microbes can be present in source water from fecal material or can enter the distribution system through pipe breaks or cross connections.

In addition to point sources such as sewage and industrial waste, a great deal of water pollution comes from non-point sources such as agricultural runoff and storm water drainage. Common non-point source pollutants include pesticides, lead, arsenic and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).

Because there are many types and sources of contaminants, community drinking water system management and operation emphasizes protecting, maintaining and improving the quality of water at every step. This is achieved using the multiple barrier approach where both water quality protection and water treatment are used to ensure safe public drinking water and prevent outbreaks.

"Water Quality" top | Page top

What drinking water contaminants are tracked by EPHT?

EPHT currently tracks arsenic, disinfection byproducts (HAA5 and TTHM) and nitrate.

"Water Quality" top | Page top

What is arsenic (As) and what are the health effects of exposure?

Arsenic is a naturally occurring element that has been known and used as a poison for centuries. In pure form, arsenic is a tasteless, odorless white powder or clear crystals. In the environment, it is generally combined with oxygen, chlorine or sulfur. These inorganic forms of arsenic are generally more toxic than the more complex organic compounds found naturally in animal tissues, especially in fish and seafoods.

Soils and rocks in some areas contain arsenic that can leach into water as erosion occurs. Arsenic containing rocks found underground can contaminate aquifers and well water. In Oregon, the principle sources of arsenic in surface and ground water are native rocks and soil, particularly those of volcanic origin. Since arsenic is a basic element, it cannot be destroyed. It simply changes forms and is moved around in the environment, generally by air and water. It can stay in soil for very long periods of time and some plants absorb it into their tissues as they grow.

Major uses in this country have been rodent poisons, insecticides and weed killers containing arsenic in both organic and inorganic forms. Arsenic is also used as a wood preservative and it has been used in dyes, paints and pigmenting substances. It is used in glass-making, electronics manufacturing and leather tanning. It has been used in both human and animal medications and care products, and may be present in some food supplements.

At very high dosages arsenic causes immediate (acute) effects including nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Arsenic exposure at low doses over a long period of time may not cause any immediate effects but it is known to cause skin lesions and lead to skin cancer. More recently, arsenic has been found to cause other cancers including lung, colon and bladder cancers. It is classified as a Class A (known) human carcinogen by the US EPA, and has also been associated with neurological problems and harmful effects on the kidneys, heart and circulatory system.

The US EPA established the mandatory maximum contaminant level (MCL) at 10 micrograms of arsenic per liter (µg/L) of water. Formerly, the limit was 50 µg/L, but EPA reduced the MCL to 10 because of the growing evidence that even very low levels may cause cancer and other harm to humans. Non-ingestion uses of water, such as bathing, pose much less risk, but are not entirely safe if arsenic levels are high.

Arsenic can be removed from drinking water, but treatment processes are expensive and require careful maintenance and monitoring. Not all kinds of treatment are effective. Currently available methods include activated alumina, electrodialysis, reverse osmosis and ion exchange resins. Alternatives to treatment include developing an alternative source or connecting to a safe water source nearby.

"Water Quality" top | Page top

What are disinfection byproducts (DBP) and their health effects?

Disinfection of drinking water is one of the major public health advances in the 20th century. A hundred years ago, typhoid and cholera epidemics were common throughout American cities. Disinfection was a major factor in reducing these epidemics. However, the disinfectants themselves can react with naturally occurring materials in the water to form unintended byproducts which may pose health risks.

Many DBPs have been shown to cause cancer and reproductive and developmental effects in laboratory animals. More than 200 million people in the US consume water that has been disinfected. Because of the large population exposed, health risks associated with DBPs, even if small, need to be taken seriously.

In recent years, we have also learned that specific microbial pathogens, such as cryptosporidium, are highly resistant to traditional disinfection practices. Cryptosporidium caused 400,000 people in Milwaukee to experience intestinal illness in 1993. More than 4,000 were hospitalized and at least 50 deaths were attributed to the outbreak. There have also been cryptosporidiosis outbreaks in Oregon, Nevada and Georgia over the past several years.

A major challenge for water suppliers is how to provide protection from these microbial pathogens while decreasing the health risks from disinfection byproducts. The Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) Amendments, signed in 1996, required EPA to develop rules to achieve these goals, which are now in effect. These new rules further strengthen existing drinking water standards and increase protection for many water systems.

Haloacetic Acids (HAA5) and total Trihalomethanes (TTHM) serve as indicators for DBP occurrence. HAA5 includes monochloroacetic, dichloroacetic, trichloroacetic, monobromoacetic and dibromoacetic acids. TTHM included chloroform, bromodichloromethane, dibromochloromethane and bromoform.

The maximum contaminant level allowed is 60 micrograms per liter (µg/L) for HAA5 and 80 µg/L for TTHM. Compliance is achieved when the running annual average levels are below 60 µg/L for HAA5 and 80 µg/L for TTHM. Public water systems must monitor for DBPs if they add a chemical disinfectant (excluding U/V disinfection) to their water or purchase water from a system that does.

"Water Quality" top | Page top

Are TTHM and HAA5 the only disinfection byproducts?

No, TTHM and HAA5 are measured and regulated under the EPA Disinfectants and Disinfection Byproducts Rules because they function as indicators for DBP occurrence in general. There are many other known DBPs, as well as yet unidentified DBPs present in disinfected water. TTHM and HAA5 typically occur at higher levels than other DBPs. Their presence is representative of the occurrence of many other chlorination DBPs. Thus, a reduction in TTHM and HAA5 generally indicates a reduction in all DBPs formed from chlorination.

"Water Quality" top | Page top

What is nitrate (NO3) and what are the health effects of exposure?

Nitrate is an essential component of living things and is a major component of animal manure, human sewage and commercial fertilizers. Nitrogen is always present in the air and reacts with oxygen and ozone to produce nitrogen oxides, of which nitrate is one. Nitrogen oxidation also occurs in growing and decomposing biological systems. Nitrates and nitrites have been used for centuries as fertilizers, in explosives and as food preservatives, especially in cured meats.

Everyone is exposed to nitrates regularly because of their presence in foods and water. They are also formed naturally in our bodies during digestion and metabolism. Nitrates are not harmful unless exposure to them is excessive. Very young infants, people taking medications containing nitrogen or people working with nitrates occupationally may be harmed at lower exposure levels than others.

Nitrate is the most commonly found contaminant in groundwater aquifers worldwide. Nitrate originates in drinking water from nitrate-containing fertilizers, sewage and septic tanks and decaying natural material such as animal waste. It is soluble in water, migrates easily and does not evaporate.

The US EPA set a maximum contaminant level of 10 milligrams per liter (mg/L) for nitrate in public water supplies. The 10 mg/L standard has been devised to protect a select group of sensitive persons (infants, pregnant and nursing women). Nitrate can interfere with the ability of the blood to carry oxygen to vital tissues in infants less than six months old. The resulting illness is called methemoglobinemia or "blue baby syndrome."

A lifetime exposure of nitrate at levels above the maximum contaminant level has the potential to cause increased starchy deposits and hemorrhaging of the spleen. It has also been suggested that nitrate ingestion may be linked to gastric or bladder cancer. This link, however, has not been firmly established and current exposure levels do not appear to put the population at risk. There is also some evidence that elevated nitrate in drinking water may increase the risk of spontaneous abortion. However, other studies have shown no association.

If the levels of nitrate exceed their maximum contaminant levels in a public water system, the water supplier must notify the public via newspapers, radio, TV and other means. Additional actions, such as providing alternative drinking water supplies, may be required to prevent serious risks to public health until the levels are lowered.

Elevated levels of nitrate found in well water usually indicate improper well construction or location, overuse of chemical fertilizers or improper disposal of human and animal waste in the vicinity of the well. Nitrate is not absorbed into the body when using contaminated water for washing and bathing.

Heating or boiling water containing nitrate will not remove the nitrate, but may actually concentrate it. If the water supply is contaminated with nitrate above the 10 mg/L level, options to consider include using bottled water for drinking and food/beverage preparation or installing a home water treatment unit.

Mechanical filters or chemical disinfection, such as chlorination, do not remove nitrate from water. Nitrate may successfully be removed from water using treatment processes such as ion exchange, distillation and reverse osmosis. These treatment techniques require careful maintenance and sampling to achieve effective operation.

"Water Quality" top | Page top

What are the health risks of other drinking water contaminants?

The Oregon Drinking Water Program provides Health Effects Information Bulletins on numerous contaminants. These fact sheets are available on the Forms/Tools/Fact Sheets page of their website at www.oregon.gov/DHS/ph/dwp/tools.shtml.

"Water Quality" top | Page top

If my water comes from a domestic well, how do I protect myself?

If your water comes from a well serving 1 to 3 households, it is considered a domestic well in Oregon and is not subject to regulation by the Oregon Drinking Water Program. It is important to know that owners of domestic wells are not required to conduct sampling and testing unless the property is sold.

It is the responsibility of the property owner to maintain the well and ensure that the water is safe to drink. The Oregon Health Authority and the Department of Environmental Quality recommend that domestic wells be tested once a year for coliform bacteria, nitrate, and arsenic, to ensure that the drinking water is safe for consumption. Testing should also be done as soon as possible if anyone in the family is experiencing gastrointestinal disorders (e.g. diarrhea) or other unexplained health problems. Well owners can have their well water tested at a commercial laboratory at their own expense. Depending on what type of test a well owner has done, the cost can range from $75 to $150, or more for very extensive testing. A list of certified water laboratories can be found on the Oregon Drinking Water Program website at: www.oregon.gov/DHS/ph/dwp/docs/labrpts/rpt_Public_Labs.pdf.

You can call your local Health Department for recommendations of what to sample for in a domestic well in a particular area. For information about maintaining and protecting of your well you can contact the Oregon State University (OSU) Extension Service at 541-737-6294. More extensive information on household wells is available at the OSU website at: groundwater.orst.edu/html/wells.htm.

"Water Quality" top | Page top

Where can I find out more about water quality?

Centers for Disease Control & Prevention – Drinking Water
Environmental Protection Agency – Drinking Water
NSF International – Water Treatment Devices
Oregon Department of Environmental Quality – Water Quality
Oregon Drinking Water Program

"Water Quality" top | Page top