Environmental Health 

Environmental health examines how all aspects of the natural and built environment affect human health. Common considerations for environmental health are air quality, water quality, food safety and quality, and exposure to toxic and hazardous substances like lead. 

Air Quality 


The quality of air can have significant impacts of health. While air quality has improved since the 1990s, there are still many pollutants causing problems for people today. Individuals with a variety of chronic conditions like asthma, allergies, coronary obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer, high blood pressure, and diabetes see deterioration in health when air quality is worse. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has established specific allowable levels of common air pollutants known as National Ambient Air Quality Standards. 

In EJC, ZIP Codes closest to the city limits of Kansas City have the highest rates of Asthma being diagnosed in a  hospital setting. Those same ZIP Codes, in addition to others scattered throughout some of the more rural areas, have the highest rates of Lung Cancer. 

When looking at concentrations of various substances, Jackson County had higher concentrations of 1.3- butadiene, acetaldehyde, benzene, formaldehyde, and particulate matter when compared to the surrounding counties in the Kansas City region. The CDC has estimated the estimated number of lives saved if particular matter was reduced in the air for Jackson Count Residents. A 5% reduction would result in 18 deaths avoided while a 25% reduction would result in 90 deaths avoided. 





Data Source: Washington University School of Medicine, Hospital Industry Data Institute, Missouri ZIP Health Rankings. 2016.

Lung Cancer Diagnoses Occurring in a Hospital per 1,000 Total Population by ZIP Code, 2016. 

Asthma Diagnoses Occurring in a Hospital per 1,000 Total Population by ZIP Code, 2016. 

Asthma Diagnoses Occurring in a Hospital Setting per 1,000 Total Population by ZIP Code, 2016

Percent of Workers 16 Years and Older Driving 30 Minutes or Longer to Work


EJC does not have many resources when it comes to public transportation which results in many residents commuting to work. Long commutes can add to the level of pollutants in the air from car emissions. In EJC, individuals living on the east and south side of the county had the highest percent of workers who have at least a 30 minute commute to work. 


Data Source: Accessed from Environmental Public Health Tracking Network: www.cdc.gov/ephtracking. Accessed on 10/05/2018. 

Childhood Lead Exposure

Approximately half a million children in the U.S. between the ages of 1 and 5 have a blood lead level above 5 micrograms per decilier (ug/dL). Although no safe level for children has been identified, 5ug/dL is when the CDC recommends public health actions be initiated. Having elevated blood lead levels and lead poisoning can lead to a variety of health problems in children. These include decreased bone and muscle growth, poor muscle coordination, damage to the nervous system, kidneys and hearing, speech and language problems, developmental delays, seizures, and unconsciousness. In EJC, the percent of elevated blood lead levels of those tested have remained about 1% for children under the age of 6. 

Homes built prior to 1950 that have not undergone substantial updates may contain hazardous materials like lead paint or asbestos fibers. In EJC, 10.49%of homes were built before 1950. Cities like Lake Tapawingo, Levasy and Sibley have the highest percentage of homes built before 1950.

Water Quality 

Water quality focuses on both drinking water and recreational waters in a community. When assessing water quality, infectious agents and hazardous chemicals are the main concerns relating to health. In Missouri, the Environmental Public Health Tracking program (EPHT) works with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources to monitor water for all users. The Ambient Water Quality Criteria for the Protection of Human Health Water Quality Criteria for the Protection of Human Health was developed to understand how much of a chemical can be present in water before it begins to negatively impact human health. The criteria cover 94 chemical pollutants and reflect various exposure factors including body weight, drinking water consumption and fish consumption rates as well as bioaccumulation and toxicity factors. 

In Missouri, communities are required to provide Consumer Confidence Reports with information about the quality of water they are being provided. Throughout Jackson County reports are available for 21 different water systems. These reports cover a range of contaminants including microbial, inorganic, pesticides and herbicides, organic chemicals, and radioactive materials. 

Change the filter to check some of those contaminants by water systems.

Fluoride is a mineral that naturally appears in water from rocks. More of it can be added to drinking water to reach levels shown to positively impact oral health. The many benefits of safe levels of fluoride include fewer and less severe cavities and tooth decay, and a need for fewer fillings and removals. 

Throughout the state of Missouri, approximately 4,010,999 people receive fluoridated water which covers 76.8% of the population. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends a level of 0.7 milligrams per liter of fluoride in drinking water. This is the level that prevents tooth decay and promotes overall good oral health. 

Most water systems in EJC do not meet the recommended levels of fluoride. Only the water purchased from Kansas City meets fluoride standards while water purchased from Tri-County and Independence water does not. The water systems that "partially" meet standards purchase water from multiple sources, potentially leaving some citizens with inadequate levels of fluoride to provide health benefits.

Agricultural Chemicals

The various maps shows the percent of area that is exposed or treated with various agricultural chemicals. Exposure to certain chemicals can have lasting health effects for the impacted population. In Jackson County, most areas are not treated with various agricultural chemicals, and percents are much lower than other areas in Missouri. 

Percent of Total Area Treated with Chemicals to Control Weeds, Grass, and Brush by County, 2012. 

Percent of Total Area Treated with Soil Conditioners including Commercial Fertilizer and Lime by County, 2012. 

Percent of Total Area Treated with Pasture Fertilizer or Chemicals by County, 2012. 

Percent of Total Area Treated with Cropland Fertilized by County, 2012.

Climate Change

In 2018, the Jackson County Health Department released a report on Climate Change the health effects to the residents of Eastern Jackson County: 



The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), has designated areas throughout the country as flood hazard areas. In Jackson County, 8.26% of the county is within a FEMA Designated Flood Hazard Area. These areas have higher risk of flooding during natural disasters or other events. 

Data Source: Accessed from Environmental Public Health Tracking Network: www.cdc.gov/ephtracking. Accessed on 10/05/2018

Percent of Area within a FEMA Designated Flood Hazard Area by County, 2016.

Return to main health assessment page: