Community health considerations are important parts of ATSDR’s land revitalization activities. As such, through its Land Reuse Health Program, ATSDR works to conduct the following activities:

  • promote a well-rounded approach to redevelopment,
  • include health as an important part of redevelopment,
  • grow community resources to promote health,
  • measure changes in community health,
  • encourage early community involvement in decision making,
  • restore and revitalize communities in a way that is fair to all community groups,
  • promote relationships among, agencies, partners, and communities,
  • improve ways to talk about health and environmental risks.
Comments from the founder of ATSDR’s National Land Reuse Health Program

According to the founder of the Land Reuse Health Program, Dr. Tina Forrester, Associate Director of Science in the Division of Community Health Investigations: the Land Reuse Health Program helps communities incorporate health considerations in land reuse decisions. People can turn vacant or under-used land into places that benefit the whole area. ATSDR works with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), state and local officials, developers, and communities to include health in these types of projects.

What is a Brownfield or Land Reuse Site?

Brownfield Sites: The US Congress formalized the definition of brownfields in 2002 through an amendment to the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) of 1980 (42 U.S.C. 9601). Under this definition, the term “brownfield site” means real property, the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant. There are some exclusions to the definition of “brownfield site”, such as facilities that may be placed or are listed on the National Priorities List (i.e. Superfund sites) or subject to corrective action under the Solid Waste Disposal Act, among others (United States Congress, 2002).

Land Reuse Sites: ATSDR includes brownfields as a type of land reuse site. Land reuse sites are sites that are slated for redevelopment but may have chemical contamination. In other words, land reuse sites include brownfields plus those sites that are exempted from the 2002 CERCLA amendment, such as Superfund sites.

Health Checks

As part of its land renewal activities, ATSDR promotes many health checks so that people can have healthier neighborhoods and workplaces. Some of these health checks may include:

  • Explaining data about chemicals in people and the environment
  • Helping people learn more about health risks in their area
  • Checking to find out if there are health issues that can be made better through changes in land use, and
  • Measuring health factors to find out if land reuse projects make people healthier.

How ATSDR and EPA Can Help Communities

The number of communities that conduct health pilot activities at brownfield and land reuse sites is low, mostly because communities do not understand what types of activities EPA, health departments, or ATSDR can conduct. To help communities learn more about how EPA, health departments, or ATSDR can help, communities should know that:

  1. ATSDR, working with health departments and EPA, can help more people include community health in brownfield and land reuse projects.
  2. EPA can award health programs monies through Brownfields awards, and that ATSDR has some limited health pilot awards for brownfield and reuse sites as well.
  3. ATSDR has free tools to assist communities and their health departments to include health activities as part of their Brownfield and Land Reuse projects. People who work to renew brownfields and other lands can use these tools to learn about health and environmental risks.
  4. ATSDR and its partners also work to build community resources so that communities themselves can continue to make health part of a well-rounded approach to growth.
  5. Together, communities, ATSDR, health departments, and EPA can create healthier places for everyone.
Page last reviewed: February 17, 2022