By Katinka Podmaniczky
When you think of the Public Health Commission, you may think about monitoring disease outbreaks, promoting healthy living through programs like Boston Moves for Health, or issuing information about product recalls.
But you may not know about all that BPHC’s Environmental Health Division does to protect the health of Bostonians. The division responds to public calls and concerns with inspection, education, and enforcement around a variety of hazards ranging from asbestos to indoor and outdoor air pollution to chemical spills and dumping to lead paint hazards. And when there is an environmental emergency, this division coordinates response and follow-up services.
Environmental Health also works with the Inspectional Services Department to enforce the city’s trans-fat regulation and regulates seven industries in the city: tattoo and piercing parlors, nail salons, tanning salons, junkyards, recycling centers, ice rinks, and biological laboratories.
As Director of the Environmental Health Division, Leon Bethune is the man behind all those programs that protect the public’s health. Leon’s team of more than 20 inspectors and outreach workers do inspections and work to educate families, workers, and communities throughout the city about safety issues.
Leon has a Masters of Public Health in Environmental Health from Boston University, and before coming to the Commission, he worked as an industrial hygienist. In this role, he promoted worker safety and investigated health hazards at construction sites, hospitals, and other workplaces.
For his seventeen years of outstanding service to the city, Leon was recently awarded a 2012 Henry L. Shattuck Public Service Award. Colleagues describe Leon as having a helpful and cooperative attitude, and an extraordinary ability to develop strong and effective partnerships with community residents, advocates, other city and state officials, and his colleagues.