Your Health and the Environment

Environmental health affects human health. As a local elected official, it’s important to know about environmental risks and the potential harm poor environmental health has on residents of your communities. This module explains how you can take action to protect your constituents from environmental risks and spur change for your community.

Read the video transcript

In this topic you will learn

  1. What exposures in our environment pose risks?

  2. How does poor environmental health impact my community?

  3. What are the benefits of increasing environmental protections?



Pregnant women exposed to particulate matter during the third trimester are at higher risk of their child developing autism and other developmental issues. There are costs associated with providing classroom support to students with different capabilities or needs.

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Economic Development

Nationwide, trees, forests and the ecosystem services they provide are valued at $6.8 billion. These services include removing particulate matter from the air and benefiting human health.

A dollar sign, indicating economic development.

Public Health and Safety

There are multiple contaminants in our wastewater, stormwater runoff, solid waste and more that put our health at risk each day. One emerging issue is PFAS, sometimes called “forever chemicals” because they resist breaking down in nature.

A heart and a plus sign, indicating public health and safety.

Infrastructure Maintenance and Finance

Microplastics threaten the restoration of the Chesapeake Bay. Ninety-four percent of the microplastics entering the region’s rivers and streams remain in the watershed, without moving into the ocean. Microplastics can exacerbate existing sources of stress on oysters, blue crabs, striped bass and other species vital to the region’s ecosystem and economy. As a result, trash traps and enhanced waste collection systems are being adopted as a way to reduce the amount of microplastics entering local waterways and ultimately, the Chesapeake Bay.

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Case Studies You'll Find Inside


Richmond, Virginia

The Legacy of Redlining in Urban Communities

A study from the Science Museum of Virginia found higher temperatures in historically redlined neighborhoods, when compared to higher income, whiter neighborhoods. Redlining is the historical practice of refusing home loans or insurance to neighborhoods based on a racially motivated perception of investment safety. The historically redlined neighborhoods—predominantly lower income and communities of color—were up to 7 degrees warmer, partly because of lower tree cover.

Sun beats down on a paved waterfront picnic area, featuring wooden picnic tables and a few large trees. (Green Fin Studio)

Here's How You Can Help

An icon of a traffic barrier, indicating risks. Know the risks to help your community stay safe.
An icon of a person tripping over something on the ground, indicating risks. Look for solutions to reduce risks to human health and safety.
An icon of a blue and a green hand mid-handshake, indicating collaboration. Provide support in the form of policy recommendations, legislative action, funding, research and more.

Learn More About This Topic


Learn how pollutants can reach groundwater, and how contaminated groundwater poses a problem for the Chesapeake Bay.


Access data about air quality where you live.

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