Who we are

Keeping community safe with public health advice

Environmental public health is concerned with the impact of pollution and waste in the environment on human health.

It’s about the quality of the air we breathe, the safety of the water we swim in, and how pollution and waste in our environment can affect our health.

In December 2016, EPA became responsible for delivering environmental public health functions related to waste and pollution following the transfer of this responsibility from the Department of Health and Human Services. Over the past 12 months, EPA has further embedded this capability into our business and delivered sound advice on risks to public health from pollution and waste.

As part of this, EPA has started work on developing an environmental health tracking network that will allow EPA to identify public health risks and assess their extent, seriousness and trends relating to environmental conditions. The network will lead to more information-driven decisions and communication, ultimately improving the health of Victorians by reducing the environmental health impacts of pollution and waste.

EPA has also established an Environmental Public Health team to provide specialist advice to EPA officers, the community and Victoria’s Chief Environmental Scientist about the public health impacts from past, present and future waste and pollution. This critical role is helping to reduce the impact of pollution and waste on communities, particularly during emergency incidents, by arming them with information about how smoke and other pollutants can affect their health, enabling them to make informed choices about how to reduce their exposure.

The new team has trained up a team of Health Risk Officers to provide environmental public health advice as part of EPA’s emergency response roster. This new capability enables EPA to provide public health expertise 24/7, which is particularly important during emergency incidents. This capability was successfully deployed during the major fires that impacted south-west Victoria between March and April 2018, with the team providing frequent advice to emergency authorities.

The Environmental Public Health team has also played a key role in EPA’s assessment of the public health risks from shooting ranges across Victoria.

This work included a risk ranking of the hundreds of shooting ranges that exist across the state for both environmental and health risks to nearby communities. The assessment identified a number of sites that require further investigation, and EPA is working with other relevant agencies and gun clubs on a priority basis to ensure any major risks are appropriately managed in a timely manner.

Environmental public health advice has played an important part in EPA’s response to emerging contaminants. Following the identification of PFAS in the Heart Morass wetland, near Sale, EPA reviewed a human health risk assessment on the levels of per-and polyfluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS) found in ducks, eels and fish in the lake. The assessment led EPA to issue public health advice that people should not eat any of these animals from the Heart Morass wetland.

Group 5Created with Sketch.
Path 2Created with Sketch.
Group 5Created with Sketch.
Group 7Created with Sketch.
Group 7Created with Sketch.
Group 7Created with Sketch.

Our environmental public health advice is informed by:

Location specific risk assessments

Environmental monitoring & health data

Policy, standards & research

These then inform our staff in their decision making and day-to-day operations.

EPA staff

EPA provides advice to other agencies, and directly to community, business, industry and government.

Policy, standards & research

Industry & business


Line 2Created with Sketch.

Smoke in your
lungs: meet Larry

In the video above, Meet Larry - a tiny smoke particle. Larry is a PM2.5 fine particle. He's so tiny that 40 Larrys could lay side by side on the width of a human hair. Our environmental public health advice on air quality helps communities to avoid exposure to particles like Larry

Successfully deploying our expertise

Our public health advice capability was deployed during the major fires that impacted south-west Victoria between March and April 2018, with the team providing frequent advice to emergency authorities.

Image gallery

Read about our emergency response to the south west fires

Page last updated on 31 Dec 2018