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I just have my suspicions, is all
April 10, 2014 9:40 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for a relatively fine-grained source of health and environmental data for Contra Costa County, CA. County-by-county is no good, and even city-by-city isn't that great. I'd like to see it by block if possible (zip code would be useful). Anything that fine-grained would be fine: cancer rates, mortality rates, air quality, etc.

The specific area I'm looking in is east Contra Costa County. It has a lot of stuff going on like oil refineries, former military testing ranges, and so on. I'm trying to figure out where to live (more on this later, even though I know East CoCoCo isn't really MeFi-heavy ground) and the difference between, say, northern Martinez and southern Martinez could be significant.

So far I haven't found anything useful from the state, county, or EPA, and the one site that did look promising doesn't function anymore because it hasn't been updated in years.

If you have any suggestions, I'd appreciate it! Thanks.

P. S. I have no idea what category to put this in.
posted by wintersweet to Law & Government (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
You should contact the California Environmental Public Health Tracking Program and see what they can provide you. And see what's available on their data portal.

Managing expectations: the problem with fine-grained health data is that often when health data are collected (say, mandatory hospital reporting, or statewide health surveys), they collect people's zip code, or county - not their block. And unfortunately these data to take a long time to develop. The other problem is that there are often low counts, which means that by law, health departments are required to suppress data, or roll it up into aggregate years, in order to prevent the ability to identify people from the reported health conditions in places.
posted by entropone at 9:44 AM on April 10 [5 favorites]


Did you check Geotracker? They should have data on regulated facilities (and some environmental reports) for any releases with groundwater impacts, and they are mapped block-by-block. Soil-only releases will not show up (they're dealt with at a more local level) and major stuff will be under Cal EPA, but most of the mid-level groundwater releases get dealt with by the Regional Groundwater Quality Control Boards, which is what Geotracker keeps track of.
posted by pie ninja at 10:09 AM on April 10 [1 favorite]


There is a family medicine residency there, and one of the prior MDs might have done some research on environmental health. Can't hurt to contact them.
posted by genmonster at 12:31 PM on April 10


You might want to look at it from a different angle: what are the risks related to being a certain distance from known sources of irritants, pollutants, toxins, etc? For example, here's a news article on a study that looked at health impacts of living near highways (link to the abstract and the paywalled paper). This way, you can look at general trends for potential impacts from living near such facilities, and what "near" really means, and remove the uncertainty about the source of cancer and specific mortality rates (Was there something in the neighborhood that caused these changes in rates that has since moved? Did a significant population come from a more hazardous place and move here? Was there a lack of preventative care that is now available, or might be available to you that is not an option for others?).

Another problem with block-level data is that the sample sizes are so small that it would be hard to draw really clear conclusions, compared to studies related to the particular sources of impacts that draw from larger populations.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:34 PM on April 10 [1 favorite]


The Census Bureau's American FactFinder gives you census tract and block level data. No environmental data, but it looks like they have data on disability, health insurance, and other things that might correlate with outcomes you're concerned about.
posted by Bentobox Humperdinck at 1:34 PM on April 10 [1 favorite]


pie ninja: "Did you check Geotracker? They should have data on regulated facilities (and some environmental reports) for any releases with groundwater impacts, and they are mapped block-by-block. Soil-only releases will not show up (they're dealt with at a more local level) and major stuff will be under Cal EPA, but most of the mid-level groundwater releases get dealt with by the Regional Groundwater Quality Control Boards, which is what Geotracker keeps track of."

Geotracker is the tool the OP is looking for. There are some soil only cases in GT, and it is used by lots of agencies not just the RWQCB. Various local authorities have had some responsibilities delegated to them by the RWQCB, but generally soil cases or UST issues are handled by local agencies, while non-UST is RWQCB or even DTSC (who runs their own site, Envirostor, but there is a lot of overlap). It was originally designed to keep track of UST issues but now includes all sorts of environmental release information.
posted by Big_B at 2:55 PM on April 10 [1 favorite]


Also if you find something in GT or Envirostor and have concerns give the caseworker listed a call. They love being called. :)
posted by Big_B at 2:56 PM on April 10 [1 favorite]


These are great answers. Thanks so much! (It never would have occurred to me to contact a caseworker...)

And yeah, I'm not expecting any clear cut answers. I just want a general feel for the overall crappiness level. I realize even that may be too much to ask for.
posted by wintersweet at 10:46 PM on April 10


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