Thursday, May 15, 2014 - 12:38pm

Public Health Issues Report on Air and Water Quality, Food and Home Safety covering 2012

The Environmental Health Report Card for Madison and Dane County covering 2012 has just been released by PHMDC (Public Health Madison & Dane County). The report presents a comprehensive body of data and analysis assessing the quality of the air we breathe, the water we drink and swim in and the safety of our food and of our homes.

The development of the report was a collaborative process involving specialists from environmental organizations, city, county, and state government and the University of Wisconsin. 
The news is mostly good, especially in areas such as recycling and water conservation although significant challenges remain.   While overall air quality is good, we continue to have some days when contaminants in our air exceed state and federal guidelines; levels that can trigger or worsen asthma symptoms among Dane County residents.  However, there have also been successes including reductions in CO2 emissions and water usage.  These are examples that demonstrate both the commitment of the community toward sustainability and the need to make sure that these efforts continue.
Following is an overview of the highlights of the report.

  •  Air quality is measured by the Air Quality Index (AQI). The good news is that the vast majority of AQI measurements for 2011 and 2012 were reported as "good", which is the highest rating and where we want to be.  In fact, since 2001, nearly 80% of our days have been classified at this highest rating.
  • Another challenge to air quality is the amount of small particulate matter in the air. Although Dane County remains in compliance with federal air quality standards, there was one day in 2011 where current guidelines for exposure were exceeded during a 24-hour period.  During these events the average daily level of particulates may be unhealthy for young children, the elderly, and people with lung or heart disease. No exceedances were reported in 2012.  
  •  A total of three days during 2011 and 2012 reported ground level ozone concentrations (maximum daily average) that exceeded federal or state regulatory standards.


  • PHMDC monitors chloride levels in Dane County lakes. The report indicates an increase in these levels, which are primarily driven by road salt. While current levels do not pose an immediate threat to human health, they could ultimately impact the ecology of our lakes.


  • Two foodborne outbreaks were reported in 2011; a total of 4 were reported in 2012.
  •  In 2011, there were a total of 2,409 individual violations (as defined by the CDC) reported during 1,482 inspections of Dane County restaurants. In 2012, there were 2,550 violations reported during 1,420 inspections.
  •  Similar to previous years, the most common violations reported during restaurant inspections were improper hand washing, cross-contamination, and unsafe food temperatures.


  • The percentage of reported cases of childhood lead poisoning continues to be low in both the City of Madison and Dane County while the number of children tested for lead continues to increase.
  • Not all homes have been tested, but we estimate that 5% to 10% of Dane County homes have elevated levels of radon.


  • In the City of Madison, approximately 73% of the generated waste was diverted from the landfill by reuse and/or recycling in 2011. In 2012, approximately 69% was diverted.
  • Per capita usage of municipal drinking water usage has decreased since 2005 at both the city and county level despite the annual increase in municipal water customers.

Dane County is a good place to live, work, and play but maintaining a healthy and sustainable environment is a critical element to sustain and improve our community.  The Environmental Health Report Card provides a picture of the overall health of our environment and includes information about how individual and community efforts are necessary to sustain what we are doing well while meeting the challenge to address the problems.  The success of such actions depends on active partnerships between government agencies, the private sector, and, most importantly, individuals and community groups. 
The complete report is now available on the PHMDC website.
Click here to see an executive summary of the report



Health & Safety