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Environment, Climate and Health

Our health is intimately connected to our environment. Toxins and other pollutants contribute to chronic diseases, such as certain types of cancers and lung disorders. The design of communities — from the location of parks and businesses to the type of construction materials used in building — can also affect health as well as contribute to the causes of climate change. Innovative legal and policy strategies are necessary for communities to respond to environmental health challenges. 


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A Closer Look at Environment, Climate and Health

Federal, state and local public health officials enforce laws and regulations that protect us from involuntary exposure to known toxins, including imposing requirements for drinking water, setting strict guidelines for chemicals and pollutants, and compliance with lead-free housing standards.

Laws and regulations also govern the built environment – homes, parks, buildings and transportation infrastructure – which can impact our health as well as contribute to the causes of climate change.

State and local public health practitioners dealing with environmental health can be confronted with a number of legal issues. Because the federal government has adopted a comprehensive regulatory scheme for environmental protection, state and local governments may be limited in their ability to pass laws that impose different standards than those imposed by federal law. Likewise, the existence of state laws may restrict passage of local laws. Federal environmental laws also regulate the ability of a state or local government to bring a lawsuit against an alleged polluter, and the right of individuals or groups to bring suit may also be regulated by federal and state law.

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Legal Research and Assistance

Experienced legal experts are available to answer questions and provide research, analysis and guidance. Let us know what you’re working on and together we can figure out how we can help.

Legal Assistance Library

Explore the Network’s Legal Assistance Library to find answers to commonly asked questions on a variety of public health topics.