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environmental health

Environmental health is the branch of public health that is concerned with all aspects of the natural and built environment that may affect human health.  These aspects may include, but are not limited to: air, food and water contaminants; radiation; toxic chemicals; disease vectors; safety hazards; and habitat alterations.

Environmental health scientists and practitioners prevent human injury and illness and promote well-being by 

  • identifying and evaluating hazardous agents and environmental sources  and
  • limiting exposures to hazardous physical, chemical, and biological agents in air, water, soil, food, and other environmental media or settings that may adversely affect human health.


CDPH seeks to promote health for all through a healthy environment.

The Healthy People 2020 Environmental Health objectives focus on 6 themes, each of which highlights an element of environmental health:

  1. Outdoor air quality
  2. Surface and ground water quality
  3. Toxic substances and hazardous wastes
  4. Homes and communities
  5. Infrastructure and surveillance
  6. Global environmental health


Humans interact with the environment constantly. These interactions affect quality of life, years of healthy life lived, and health disparities. There are many groups in California that may be particularly vulnerable to environmental hazards or contaminants.  These include children, the elderly, the poor and recent immigrants. Personal factors such as genetic susceptibility, nutrition, lifestyle, and individual habits also impact health in our communities. Community development decisions – such as zoning, transportation, housing, and public safety -- influence the public's health in direct, as well as indirect, ways. 

CDPH programs take a comprehensive approach to studying risk and formulating policies, which considers many possible contributing factors as well as the social, cultural and physical environments. CDPH works with stakeholders like county health departments, regulatory agencies, universities, and community groups to resolve environmental problems and controversies.

Creating health-promoting environments is complex and relies on continuing research to understand more fully the effects of exposure to environmental hazards on people's health.

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