When we think of the environment and how it impacts health, we tend to think of the earth and our natural environment - the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat. Humans are connected and a part of their natural environment. However, we may also spend a great deal of time in our homes, at work, in school, or in other buildings. We breathe indoor air, and consume or use household products, cosmetics, and medicines. Environmental hazards may include any chemicals or toxins we come into contact with that can cause harm. An example would be lead paint in the home or particulate matter in outdoor air. The presence of a hazard does not necessarily mean that health problems will occur, but it may cause a disease or other health problem. The LDH Tracking Program is putting both Health and Environmental data together to assist in identifying and exploring the connections. The LDH Tracking Program includes the following environmental indicators:


Climate Change

The Fourth National Climate Assessment (U.S. Global Change Research Program, 2018) summarizes the current status of climate change in the United States and outlines potential impacts for the future. Development of the Fifth National Climate Assessment (NCA5) is currently underway, anticipated in 2023. Among other impacts specifically related to the Southeast United States and Louisiana, increased temperatures and an associated increase in extreme heat events will impact the public’s health. Increased heat illness, heat-related emergency department visits and hospitalizations, and likely more deaths from heat stroke could occur, if we don’t take precautions now to adequately protect the most vulnerable in the population from heat exposure.

Our surrounding natural and built environments, energy, agriculture, and forestry will be affected by climate change in various ways. For example, the habitats or ranges of mosquitos or ticks that transmit disease (vector-borne disease) may expand or change in ways that bring humans more into contact. Energy, forestry and our homes and businesses (making up our economy) are impacted by weather events and extreme rainfall, drought and wildfires.

Existing and emerging climate impacts which impact the health of Louisiana communities can be tracked as these data continue to be added to the Louisiana Department of Health, Health Data Explorer. Heat illness and temperature data can be tracked by Louisiana climate division. Drought, periods of extreme precipitation (‘wetness’), and wildfire can be explored alongside both health and population data.

Topics such as sea level rise, the potential displacement of coastal communities, and vector-borne illness are being studied and considered for addition to the Data Explorer in the future.


Drinking Water Quality

Public drinking water in Louisiana comes from mainly two sources, public water systems (the public water supply) and domestic wells (private water wells). The type and size of a public water system determines its monitoring and reporting requirements. There are around 1,280 public water systems in the state of Louisiana. The LDH Tracking network currently tracks the population served by these systems along with nine drinking water contaminants which are monitored in public drinking water. These selected contaminants have associations with the health effects being analyzed by the Tracking Program.


Environmental Sampling - Mercury Levels in Fish

Because people have come in contact with mercury from eating fish in Louisiana, popular fishing areas and other water bodies in the state have been sampled by the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (LDEQ) to determine the extent of risks due to mercury. Fish advisories are issued when harmful chemicals are found at levels that may impact the public's health. To explore mercury in fish data, click here


Fish Consumption Advisories

Fish consumption advisories are issued when contaminants are found in fish at levels that may potentially impact the public's health.


Outdoor Air Quality

Air quality can be affected by a wide variety of pollutants.  Air pollutants come from many different sources and can be gaseous chemicals as well as tiny solid and liquid particles. Currently, the LDH Tracking Program presents outdoor air quality data on monitored ground level ozone and particulate matter (PM) that is less than 2.5 micrometers or smaller known as PM2.5.