Many state public health laboratories also perform environmental testing. In some states the environmental and public health laboratory are the same laboratory and are often within the state health department, providing analytical testing support for numerous state programs including drinking water, wastewater, solid waste, air quality, etc. In other states, the environmental laboratory is separate from the public health lab and is part of the department of environmental quality or natural resources. However, one common feature within these laboratories is the commitment of laboratory personnel to keeping the environment safe and protecting public health.
An environmental laboratory analyzes samples such as air, water and soil for microbiological and chemical contamination of both public and environmental health concern. Its origin can be traced to the original mission of laboratories associated with municipal water and wastewater treatment plants: To ensure that drinking water was free of disease-causing microorganisms and to test waste water effluent for contamination that may degrade the quality of waterways.
Over the last 35 years as the health effects of environmental degradation have became more evident, the environmental laboratory has shifted its focus to macro-pollutants. Initially analytical techniques for these macro-pollutants were moderately selective and sensitive. Over time, as environmental quality improved, techniques became increasingly selective, sensitive and sophisticated. In some states, state environmental laboratories and scientists evaluating the health effects from environmental exposures to trace environmental pollutants collaborated to form biomonitoring and environmental health tracking programs.