Many things in the environment can affect our health. Hazardous substances found in the air, soil and water can originate from a variety of sources, such as agricultural and industrial activities, mining operations, landfills and leaky underground storage tanks. Health officials work with individuals, communities, government agencies and industries throughout the state to reduce or eliminate exposure to substances that could be harmful.

Environmental Public Health

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services evaluates potentially hazardous substances and sites to determine their impact on the public’s health. Health officials provide information to communities about exposure to hazardous substances and ways to reduce exposure until the risk is eliminated.

picture of a familyLead

Lead poisoning is one of the most common and preventable environmental health problems in Missouri. Lead exposure in children can cause learning and behavioral problems, lower IQ levels and interfere with growth and hearing. The only way to know if a child has lead poisoning is to have his or her blood tested.

Indoor Air

Clean indoor air is vital to good health. Indoor air pollutants can contribute to asthma and allergic reactions, chemical poisoning and some types of cancer. The quality of indoor air is a significant health concern throughout the state because Missourians spend an average of 90 percent of their time inside. Research shows that air pollution levels are higher indoors than outside.


Radon is a colorless, odorless and tasteless gas that poses a health risk to humans primarily when it is found inside homes and other buildings. Exposure to radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer. Homes can be tested for radon, and steps can be taken to reduce the level of radon in indoor air.

Septic Systems

Onsite wastewater treatment systems are used by about 25 percent of all homes in Missouri. Sewage systems that are not operating correctly can create a health risk. In most areas of Missouri, a permit to construct an onsite sewage system must be obtained from a local health department or the state Department of Health and Senior Services.

Water Wells

Thousands of Missourians get their water from a private water supply, usually a well. Missouri’s Private Water Program works to make sure that drinking water is safe. The program provides technical assistance to homeowners and local health agencies regarding water testing and treatment. The program also regulates private water supplies of hotels, motels and restaurants to make sure the water meets safe drinking water standards.