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Washington StateThe Collaborative on Health and the Environment – Washington

A Partnership Network for Environmental Health
Established and Coordinated by the Institute for Children's Environmental Health

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Report Card

On this page:

Introduction

This report card provides an overview of the status of the scientific information on health and environmental quality in Washington State. Each environmental or health subject in the clearinghouse has been given a grade from A to F.

The grades are intended to describe the quantity and quality of the information available on each topic. In other words, they respond to the question 'how complete or comprehensive is the information on each topic?'

We have used the grading system at right:

The grades awarded in the report card are based on the following criteria:

  • The quantity of scientific information available;
  • The quality of the information;
  • The availability of information for different years and trends over time;
  • The availability of information on many different geographic regions or locations in the Washington State; and
  • The availability of information on vulnerable or sensitive sub-groups within Washington State's population, such as children, ethnic minorities, and people living in poverty.

Thus, the grades do not provide an assessment of environmental quality or health status themselves.

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A

Excellent

B

Good

C

Fair

D

Poor

F

Fail

The Grades

Asthma: Grade A

The information available on asthma in Washington State is excellent. The data for the State as a whole and for various subpopulations are comprehensive, up-to-date and readily available.

The Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System provides annual asthma prevalence data up to 2005 for Washington State compared to other states. The Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System and the Washington Asthma Initiative both provide information on asthma prevalence broken down by gender, age, ethnicity and education level.

The Department of Health's Burden of Asthma in Washington State report also provides current asthma data, updated to 2005, for the entire State as well as at a county level.

Cardiovascular Disease: Grade B

There is reasonably good information available on cardiovascular disease in Washington State, especially on mortality rates. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has information on heart disease and stroke rates for each county, however, the most recent data are from 2000. Moreover, this information has not been linked with information on air quality.

The Department of Health's 2004 report "The Burden of Heart Disease and Stroke in Washington State" contains the most current information on cardiovascular disease, including the prevalence of cardiovascular diseases broken down by age, gender and ethnicity, as well as by each individual county. This report does not identify air quality as a risk factor for cardiovascular disease; however, a current study on "Air Pollution and Cardiovascular Disease" at the University of Washington will help to address this issue.

Adult Cancer: Grade A/B

The information available on cancer in Washington State is very good, although there are opportunities for improvement. The State's Cancer Registry was awarded an "A" by the Trust for America's Health, one of only 12 states in the nation to receive this rating.

Both the Department of Health's Cancer Registry and National Cancer Institute provide cancer profiles on a county-by-county basis.

The Cancer Registry contains the most current information – from 2003 – on cancer in the State.

The National Cancer Institute’s "Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End-Results (SEER)" program provides information on cancer incidence, mortality and patient survival for several states or regions in the US, including Seattle-Puget Sound. The data available cover 1973-1989.

More studies on the relationships between different types of cancer in Washington State and exposures to environmental carcinogens would be helpful.

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Childhood Cancer: Grade C

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provide information on the incidence and mortality of childhood cancer for 2001 by cancer type, state, ethnicity, gender and age, but the data cannot be sorted in terms of cancer types by age for a specific state.

There is a need for recent information on incidence and death rates for specific childhood cancers in Washington State. There is also a need for more information on the relationship between specific childhood cancers and exposure to environmental contaminants in Washington State, although this may be difficult because of the small numbers involved.

Reproductive Disorders: Grade C

Information o preterm birth, low birth weight, and infant mortality are readily available, although the latest information is from 2001. We were unable to find State information on other reproductive effects.

There is a need for more information on the relationship between specific reproductive effects and exposure to environmental contaminants at a State level.

Birth Defects: Grade D/F

Washington State does not have a comprehensive, operational, publicly accessible Birth Defects Registry. In 2003, it was awarded a "D" grade for its Birth Defects Registry by the Trust for America's Health. The Department of Health is developing a web-based, electronic system for reporting cases of children with birth defects for the State.

We were unable to find Washington State information on many birth defects associated with exposure to environmental contaminants.

Developmental & Neurobehavioral Disabilities: Grade F

There is some information available on several developmental & neurobehavioral disabilities in Washington State, including autism, mental retardation, children with special health care needs, developmental delays, Parkinson's Disease, and behavioral problems, but the information is not consistently reported or updated. The latest information we could find on these disabilities was from 2001 (developmental delay), and some data went back as far as 1993 (mental retardation).

For conditions such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and cerebral palsy, we estimated Washington State rates using the latest national rates in conjunction with State population data.

Body Burden: Grade D

There is very little body burden information available on Washington State. Some is available on lead, pesticides and PBDEs. With the exception of the information on lead, the information has been collected by non-profit organizations or academics. The Washington State Department of Health has a 2003 plan "Washington State Plan for Priorities for Biomonitoring", but it has not been funded.

Blood lead testing is a notifiable condition in Washington State. Laboratories have been required to report all blood lead levels for Washington state residents to the Department of Health since 1993 (children and adults).

Outdoor Air: Grade A/B

The Washington State information on outdoor air quality is very good. Information on the six 'criteria pollutants' is excellent, although there has been a decrease in the number of monitoring stations in recent years. Information is collected and disseminated by several national, State and local agencies.

There is less information available on ambient levels of hazardous air pollutants and pesticides in Washington State. The Environmental Protection Agency has recently released the "Second National Air Toxics Assessment" which contains data for 1999.

Water: Grade B/C

Information on drinking water quality in Washington State is good. Consumers are provided with an annual Consumer Confidence Report, summarizing drinking water quality for their supply. The Department of Health maintains Water System Data for the State, but most of the data are only available to authorized users. There is a need for a publicly accessible, queryable Statewide database, with mapping capacity. Also, there is a need for studies on chemicals in drinking water and health outcomes, such as those that have been observed in studies conducted elsewhere in the US and Canada.

Soil: Grade C/D

There is relatively good information available on levels of heavy metals in soil in Washington State, mostly related to the operation of metal smelters. However, there is little or no information available on ambient levels of pesticides, other persistent pollutants, and soil contamination from leaded gasoline.

Contaminated Sites: Grade B

Information on health at contaminated sites in Washington State is good. Health risk assessments have been completed at about half of the Superfund sites in Washington State and at many other contaminated sites. As well, the Department of Ecology has a hazard ranking system for hazardous sites. However, there do not appear to have been any epidemiological studies to study whether or not there are actual health effects at contaminated sites in Washington State.

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Food & Fish: Grade D

There is very little information available on levels of contaminants in food in Washington State. This is a significant gap, especially because food is a major exposure pathway for many toxic chemicals.

There is more information available on levels of contaminants in fish. However, there is a need for more sampling locations, sampling of more species of fish, larger sample sizes, and analysis for a greater number of toxic chemicals. More information on contaminant levels in fish would be helpful to ascertain if there is a need for more fish consumption advisories and actions to reduce/eliminate the presence of toxics in the environment.

Indoor Environmental Quality: Grade F

There is very little information available on indoor air and environments in Washington State. There is some information on levels of PBDEs in house dust, radon, environmental tobacco smoke in the indoor environment, and indoor air quality in schools. There is a need for more information on this topic because most people spend about 90% or more of the time indoors.

Pesticides and Health: Grade: C

There is some information on pesticides in Washington State. The Pesticide Incident Reporting and Tracking (PIRT) system maintains records of pesticide incidents reported to State agencies, and the State Department of Agriculture maintains a list of pesticide-sensitive individuals. There is also information on pesticide use on food crops in Washington State.

Climate Change & Health: Grade C/D

There is relatively good information on the likely effects of climate change on the environment of Washington State, but very little on the potential effects on human health. The only information we found related to increases in winter mortality and the effects of air pollution.

Land Use, Sprawl & Health: Grade C/D

There is good information available on land use and sprawl in Washington State. The primary indicator for urban sprawl is residential density. There is also good information available on Washington State on the health effects that have been associated with sprawl, such as obesity, diabetes and car accidents. However, there is little information available in Washington State demonstrating that sprawl causes adverse health effects in Washington State

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Summary Table

Subject

Grade

Comments

Asthma

A

Excellent

Cardiovascular Disease (CVD)

B

Need to link CVD with air pollution information.

Adult Cancer

A/B

Very good, but mapping of data would be helpful. Also, need to link cancer information with exposure to environmental carcinogens.

Childhood Cancer

C

Data cannot be sorted by state. Also, need to link specific childhood cancers with exposure to environmental contaminants.

Reproductive Effects

C

Data on preterm birth, low birth weight and infant mortality are very good. Better data needed on other reproductive effects and on exposure to environmental contaminants

Birth Defects

D/F

Need an operational, publicly accessible State Birth Defects Registry. Better data on developmental effects in Washington State is needed. Need to link birth and developmental effects with exposure to environmental contaminants.

Developmental & Neurobehavioral Disabilities

F

Unable to find much information on Washington State.

Body Burden

D

Very little information available.

Outdoor Air

A/B

Very good, but more information on ambient levels of pesticides and hazardous air pollutants is needed. There has been a decrease in the number of monitoring stations in recent years.

Water

B/C

Good, but a publicly accessible, queryable Statewide database, with mapping capacity, is needed. Also, there is a need for studies on chemicals in drinking water and health outcomes in Washington State.

Soil

C/D

Some information on heavy metals. Little or no information on pesticides, other toxic chemicals or soil contamination from leaded gasoline.

Contaminated Sites

B

Health risk assessments completed at about half the Superfund sites.

Food & Fish

D

Very little information on toxic chemicals in food. Fish consumption advisories very good.

Indoor Environmental Quality

F

Very little information available.

Pesticides and Health

C

Information available on 'pesticide incidents' and use of pesticides on food crops.

Climate Change & Health

C/D

Little information on the health effects of climate change on health in Washington State.

Land Use, Sprawl & Health

C/D

Very little information indicating that sprawl causes adverse health in Washington State.

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