Human Health

Protect human health, considering disproportionate impacts on vulnerable populations, through programs that educate communities and limit harmful exposures from air and water contaminants.
Spending time in nature can have significant health benefits for people. However, contamination of Puget Sound air and water makes people sick and affects their ability to live long and high-quality lives. In Puget Sound, sources of air quality degradation include vehicle emissions, industrial emissions, and burning wood and debris. Contamination of drinking water affects certain Puget Sound residents, particularly rural communities where public water systems and wells can be threatened by ground and surface water infiltration and the use of pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers. Puget Sound residents may also face health threats from exposure to contaminated beaches and consumption of fish and shellfish that contain toxics.

Exposure to pollution is not distributed evenly across the geography of Puget Sound—some communities face disproportionate human health threats from their interaction with Puget Sound air, water, and natural resources. Vulnerability to contaminant-related health threats varies according to a number of factors, such as race, age, and socio-economic status. This strategy focuses on reducing people’s exposures to air and water contaminants, with attention to inequities experienced by vulnerable populations and underserved communities and the risks to especially vulnerable populations. This strategy is consistent with and goes above and beyond the requirements of the Healthy Environment for All Act.
  • Reduce inequitable health outcomes

Direct beneficial environmental activities, investments, and community research towards better understanding and improving areas with environmental health disparities and where the environmental health improvements will be greatest. (ID #112)

Key opportunities for 2022-2026 include:

  • Create economies of scale;
  • Plan and begin to implement approaches for engaging vulnerable populations and underserved communities in two-way conversations;
  • Conduct environmental justice assessments for significant actions;
  • Identify and implement processes for considering environmental justice in budgeting, expenditures, and granting or withholding environmental benefits;
  • Develop consultation frameworks with tribal nations and consortia to communicate and collaborate on environmental justice actions;
  • Consider appropriate applications of the Washington State Environmental Health Disparities Map for Puget Sound;
  • Pursue additional community-based research to ground truth and clarify environmental health disparities in the context of Puget Sound recovery.

Adequately resource community-led efforts to promote education and awareness about environmental health risks associated with air pollution, drinking water contamination, surface water pollution, and toxics in fish and shellfish. (ID #114)

Key opportunities for 2022-2026 include:

  • Foster partnerships among tribal nations, state agencies, local health jurisdictions, community-based organizations, and the research community;
  • Leverage and fund watershed councils to promote actions to reduce pollution and protect watersheds through accountability and reporting;
  • Support community education and organizing related to toxics in products (PFAS) and other potential sources of exposure to toxics.

Limit people’s exposures to harmful air pollution. (ID #199)

Key opportunities for 2022-2026 include:

  • Increase air quality studies of emissions of jet planes impacting communities;
  • Develop and implement approaches to sharing real- time air quality information and short-term forecasts to provide warnings about potentially harmful conditions (for example, expand air quality messaging in smartphone weather apps; develop complementary approaches to reach vulnerable populations and underserved communities and vulnerable populations);
  • Expand programs to reduce particulate air pollution (for example, from wood stoves, diesel engines, etc.);
  • Focus these programs on reducing exposures to vulnerable populations and underserved communities; expand programs to reduce the formation of ground- level ozone, including reducing vehicle miles powered by internal combustion;
  • Expand the coverage of emission checks and standards, etc.;
  • Increase investments in nature-based solutions to improve air quality (for example, increased tree canopy, etc.).

Limit people’s exposures to harmful water pollution. (ID #200)

Key opportunities for 2022-2026 include:

  • Focus investments to improve drinking water systems to ensure standards are met across Puget Sound communities, with attention to drinking water supplies and systems serving vulnerable populations and underserved communities;
  • Identify and address sources of pollution that impair water quality in areas where people swim and recreate, and other in-water recreation and local foods harvesting areas;
  • Prevent people’s exposure to poor water quality at fresh and marine swimming and recreational areas by maintaining and expanding beach monitoring and signage.
Implementation Considerations

No related implementation considerations at this time.

Ongoing Programs

Ongoing programs provide regulatory oversight, technical support, implementation resources, funding, or guidance and serve as the critical foundation for Puget Sound recovery. The following is a list of example state and federal ongoing programs that help to implement this strategy. Many more local, tribal nations, and nongovernmental programs exist that support this strategy.

What We're Measuring

We achieve our recovery goals for a healthy human population and healthy water quality by ensuring levels and patterns of air pollution, contaminants in drinking water, contamination in fish and shellfish, and pollutants and biotoxins in surface water do not threaten Puget Sound communities or vulnerable populations and underserved communities with adverse health outcomes. Indicators of success include:

  • Reducing exposure to impaired air quality
  • Reducing exposure to elevated nitrates in groundwater
  • Reducing disproportionate impacts on vulnerable populations and underserved communities
  • Reducing toxics in aquatic life

Current Legislative Actions