Contaminants in the Environment

Water through the trees
Testing Your Environment to Keep You Safe

Since the environmental movement in the 1960s, significant progress means cleaner air, water and soil for most Americans: rivers no longer go up in flames, entire towns no longer need to be shut down, and Los Angeles no longer issues smog alerts. Environmental labs monitor our air, water and soil in order to protect public health and the environment.


Did you know that rivers used to burn because they were so polluted? That entire towns were evacuated and closed due to hazardous waste contamination? That doctors in LA used to recognize a syndrome called “smog complex”, which irritated patients’ eyes and respiratory tracts, and led to chest pain, cough, nausea and headaches?

While the US made significant progress toward cleaning up our water, air and soil since then, challenges still remain. Too often, APHL learns of communities with legitimate environmental health concerns, such as those documented in NPR’s Poisoned Places, who don’t know where to turn to find answers to their questions.

Public environmental laboratories assure the safety of our water, soil and air every day through testing for various types of contamination, such as chemical, biological or radiological agents. They perform complex testing that requires highly trained staff, sophisticated instrumentation and specially-designed facilities.

Regulators, lawyers, policymakers and health officials use the laboratory data to understand whether laws are being violated, whether our health is threatened and whether to take action. Unlike commercial laboratories who answer to stockholders or a board, public laboratories serve the public.

APHL serves as home base for these laboratories, providing communication mechanisms and a unified voice at the national level.