Want to know whether there's a link in your state between environmental hazards and diseases like cancer? A new online mapping system released February 26 offers the public, for the first time, easy access to cancer death rates that are known or suspected to have environmental causes.
The interactive maps were created for Health-Track, a nonprofit national public health project established with a grant to Georgetown University from The Pew Charitable Trusts (which also funds Stateline.org). Health-Track aims not only to educate the public about what information is available, but also to make people more aware of how little work is being done on environmental health issues, says executive director Jim O'Hara.
The site includes information on cancers of the bladder, brain, breast, liver and prostate. Users may also select data specifically for black or white males and females. Information like this is helpful, but it's not enough, says O'Hara. "There's currently no exposure data to show if there is a link between cancers and environmental toxins, and there's really no good nationwide information for environmental hazards. State and local health departments just aren't given enough resources to track and study these issues," he says.
While citizens wait for public health officials to obtain the money they need to analyze environmental-linked diseases, they may at least get some use out of the available data provided by Health-Track. "Someone from the public can go online and see what geographic patterns that link cancer with the environment might be in their area. Based on what they see, they may take advantage of a particular screening program in the state. Today we have a lot of effective treatments for cancer, if the disease is detected soon enough," O'Hara says.