Environmental Practice


COMMENTARY: Improving Community Health: Brownfields and Health Monitoring

Laurel Bermana1 c1, Deborah Orra2 and Tina Forrestera3

a1 Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), Brownfields Coordinator, Division of Regional Operations, Region 5 Office, Chicago, Illinois

a2 United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 5 Office, Chicago, Illinois

a3 ATSDR, Director, Division of Regional Operations, Atlanta, Georgia


This commentary highlights efforts to promote health monitoring in brownfields communities. Both the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) and the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) recognize how public health may be improved by including a holistic approach to redevelopment that includes community health monitoring activities. Health monitoring goes beyond testing blood samples to address potentially toxic exposures and can be implemented to assess overall community health status throughout the course of community revitalization efforts. Examples of health monitoring activities include asthma or blood lead level screening, reviewing health statistics, environmental testing, and evaluation of community-specific health concerns. While health monitoring is encouraged as an activity within US EPA Brownfields funding, the number of communities that implement health monitoring programs is low. To encourage more communities to implement health monitoring activities, with or without Brownfields funding, this paper describes several projects by health agencies and communities to represent best practice examples. To facilitate more community health monitoring projects, the ATSDR has created and continues to create tools and resources to assist brownfield and land-reuse communities. In addition, the ATSDR and the US EPA are working together to build internal as well as community capacity to monitor community health through redevelopment activities.

Environmental Practice 11:190–195 (2009)

(Received July 03 2009)

(Revised July 31 2009)

(Accepted July 31 2009)


c1 Address correspondence to: Laurel Berman, ATSDR Region 5 Office, 77 West Jackson Blvd., Ste. 413, ATSD-4J, Chicago, Illinois 60604, (phone) 312-886-0840; (fax) 312-886-6066, (email) LABerman@cdc.gov

Laurel Berman is an Environmental Health Scientist with the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, where she serves as the National Brownfields Coordinator. Dr. Berman holds PhD and MS degrees in Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences from University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health, where she maintains an adjunct faculty appointment.

Deborah Orr is the Brownfields Coordinator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, in Region 5, Chicago. She helps manage one of the largest regional brownfields program in the nation. She assumed these duties in April 2000. Deborah's government service has primarily been with the U. S. EPA. She joined U.S. EPA in 1980 as an Environmental Engineer and has held a variety of technical and management positions. She received her engineering degree from Illinois Institute of Technology.

Tina Forrester is the director of the Division of Regional Operations of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Dr. Forrester was a founding member of the Agency's Brownfields and Land Reuse initiative. She has a PhD and MS in Toxicology from the University of Kentucky. Dr. Forrester has been with ATSDR for 17 years.