Helpful guide to Environmental Pathways

The Built Environment Assessment Tool Manual

This manual explains the importance of understanding and measuring the built environment and provides a tool for doing so.

What is the Built Environment?

The built environment includes the physical makeup of where we live, learn, work, and play—our homes, schools, businesses, streets and sidewalks, open spaces, and transportation options. The built environment can influence overall community health and individual behaviors such as physical activity and healthy eating.

What are the Challenges of Measuring the Built Environment?

Community program staff and evaluators may find it hard to know which features of the built environment they should measure on the basis of the health behaviors and outcomes they are trying to affect. Although there is a wide array of proven tools for measuring features of the built environment, it is important to know which ones are best suited to accurately and feasibly assess those features.

The Built Environment Assessment Tool

The Built Environment Assessment Tool (BE Tool) measures the core features and qualities of the built environment that affect health, especially walking, biking, and other types of physical activity.

The core features assessed in the BE Tool include:

  • Built environment infrastructure—such as road types, curb cuts and ramps, intersections and crosswalks, traffic control, and public transportation.
  • Walkability—for example, access to safe, attractive sidewalks and paths with inviting features.
  • Bikeability—such as the presence of bike lane or bike path features.
  • Recreational sites and structures.
  • Food environment—such as access to grocery stores, convenience stores, and farmers markets.

Learn more…

Lead Poisoning Testing

Protecting children from exposure to lead is important to lifelong good health. No safe blood lead level in children has been identified. Even low levels of lead in blood have been shown to affect learning, ability to pay attention, and academic achievement. While the effects of lead poisoning may be permanent, if caught early there are things parents can do pdf icon[PDF – 234 KB] to prevent further exposure and reduce damage to their child’s health.

The most important step that parents and caregivers, healthcare providers, and public health professionals can take is to prevent lead exposure before it occurs.

CDC supports primary and secondary lead poisoning prevention.

  • Primary prevention is the removal of lead hazards from the environment before a child is lead exposed. It is the most effective way to ensure that children do not experience harmful long-term effects of lead exposure.
  • Secondary prevention includes blood lead testing and follow-up care and referral. It remains an essential safety net for children who may already be exposed to lead.

A blood test is the best and most readily available way to determine if your child has been exposed to lead. The amount of lead in blood is referred to as a blood lead level, which is measured in micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood (μg/dL). Most children with lead in their blood have no obvious symptoms. Talk to your child’s health care provider about getting a blood lead test.

Preventing childhood lead exposure is cost-effective.

According to an analysis from the Health Impact Project, pdf icon[PDF – 7.5 MB]external icon eliminating lead hazards from the places where children live, learn, and play could generate approximately $84 billion in long-term benefits per birth cohort. Additionally, permanently removing lead hazards from the environment would benefit future birth cohorts, and savings would continue to grow over time. CDC is committed to help address this threat and improve health outcomes for our nation’s most vulnerable citizens—our children.

Lead Test Kit with 30 Test Swabs. Results in 30 Seconds Just Dip in White Vinegar to Use Lead Testing Kits for Home Use, Suitable for All Painted Surfaces

Radon Test Kits and Mitigation Professionals

If you are interested in finding a service provider to test for radon or mitigate (fix) your home, contact your state radon program for help in finding qualified professionals in your state.  

Currently, EPA requires state receiving indoor radon grants to maintain and provide the public with a list of only those radon service providers who are credentialed either through:

  1. An existing state-run process established under a state’s regulatory requirements for credentialing radon service providers (e.g., state license), or
  2. One of the two currently-recognized national radon proficiency programs:

Radon Testing

Radon is a radioactive gas that has been found in homes all over the United States. It comes from the natural breakdown of Uranium in soil,rock, and water and gets into the air you breathe. Radon typically moves up through the ground to the air above and into your home through cracks and other holes in the foundation. Radon can also enter your home through well water. Your home can trap radon inside. Any home can have a radon problem… old homes, well sealed and drafty homes, and homes with or without basements or crawlspaces. In fact, you and your family are most likely to get your greatest radiation exposure at home. That is where you spend most of your time.

Whether you are buying or selling a home, it should be tested for radon.

For a new home, ask if radon-resistant construction features were used and if the home has been tested. Testing is the only way to find out your home’s radon levels.
EPAand the Surgeon General recommend testing all homes below the third floor for radon

If you find that you have high radon levels, there are ways to fix a radon problem. Even very high levels of 4 picocuries per liter (pCi/L) or higher can be reduced to acceptable levels. Radon levels of less than 4 pCi/L still pose a risk and in many cases may be reduced.

*Radon is estimated to cause about 21,000 lung cancer deaths per year, according to EPA’s 2003 Assessment of Risks from Radon in Homes (EPA 402-R-03-003). The numbers of deaths from other causes are taken from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2005-2006 National Center for Injury Prevention and Control Report and 2006 National Safety Council Rep

The radon test result is important information about your home’s radon level. Some
states require radon measurement testers to follow a specific testing protocol. If you do the test yourself, you should carefully follow the testing protocol for your area or EPA’s Radon Testing Checklist. If you hire a contractor 20 to test your residence, protect yourself by hiring a qualified* 34 individual or company.

You can determine a service provider’s qualifications to perform radon
measurements or to mitigate your home in several ways. Check with your state
radon office. Many states require radon professionals to be licensed, certified, or
registered. Most states can provide you with a list of knowledgeable radon service
providers doing business in the state. In states that don’t regulate radon services,
ask the contractor if they hold a professional proficiency or certification
credential. Such programs usually provide members with a photo-ID card, which
indicates their qualification(s) and its expiration date. If in doubt, you should
check with their credentialing organization. Alternatively, ask the contractor
if they’ve successfully completed formal training appropriate for testing or
mitigation, e.g., a course in radon measurement or radon mitigation.