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Brownfields and Public Health

Connecting Brownfields to Public Health

Community concerns about brownfield often center on public health issues. Areas with one or more brownfields commonly experience disinvestment over time. In addition to known, unknown or perceived environmental health threats from contaminants at a site, the area may experience hazards due to other community challenges, including:

  • Safety Risks. Abandoned and derelict structures, open foundations, compromised infrastructure or equipment (due to lack of maintenance, vandalism or deterioration), controlled substance sites (i.e., methamphetamine labs), and abandoned mine sites are examples of sites with safety risks. Proximity to flood zones or natural hazard areas may be of concern due to the potential to mobilize contaminants and contribute to structural deterioration.

  • Social and economic factors. Blighted areas with higher crime, vagrancy and/or vacancy rates lead to declining property values, reduce the local government tax base and the availability of social services in brownfield communities. Reduced social capital or lost community connections often contribute to a deteriorating quality of life for residents in brownfield areas.

  • Environmental health. Industrial production or commercial activity, such as emissions, transportation and goods movements, site or groundwater contamination, surface runoff, migration of contaminants, wastes dumped on site or natural hazards can exacerbate potential biological, physical, or chemical dangers from nearby brownfield sites.

EPA encourages communities to work with their local, state or tribal environmental regulators and public health agencies as part of their brownfield program activities.