By Adelle Schubarg, Environmental Research Assistant
Alan Huneycutt is an Environmental Senior Specialist for the Children’s Environmental Health Unit of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. In this position, Alan works with local health departments and other environmental health specialists to mitigate lead poisoning prevention in children.
For Alan, the environmental health field was a chance pursuit that turned into a lifelong career. After earning a bachelor’s degree in psychology from North Carolina State University, Alan spent some time pruning apple trees. During this time, a friend notified him of a job opening within the county health department for a position as a public health sanitarian. Alan applied and got the job.
This initial career move gave way to a long and varied career in environmental health for Alan. He has conducted food and lodging inspections for Henderson County, worked in vector control for Mecklenburg County’s health department, and now works in children’s environmental health for the state.
Alan has immense experience and knowledge of environmental health after working for 36 years in the field and has held a variety of positions at the county, regional, and state level. Furthermore, Alan earned a master’s degree in public health from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill while working for the state to further solidify his interest and expertise in the environmental health field.
A main responsibility of Alan’s job is conducting lead poisoning investigations. Upon receiving a request to investigate, he will visit a home and try to identify the cause of an elevated blood lead level in a child. Finding what he refers to as the “smoking gun” during a lead investigation is what Alan considers the most enjoyable and most rewarding part of his job.
He says, “[It’s] nice to see the results of your efforts – when you can correct the problem and then see the child’s blood lead level go down”.
Alan’s job also involves training and authorizing local health departments to conduct investigations of their own. After completing training, local departments become authorized state agents.
The hardest part of the job for Alan is when finances are a barrier to home remediation for homeowners. Alan says this becomes especially difficult when he must send out a remediation order to a family knowing that the family does not have sufficient funds to fix the lead issue in their home.
Alan’s involvement with the Lead and Healthy Homes Task Force began while working on a mold and healthy homes project with Melinda Shuler, an asthma nurse at Mission Hospital in Asheville, NC who was involved with the Task Force at the time. While he cannot always attend the quarterly meetings, Alan has made some meaningful relationships with some of the other members and has furthered his involvement in healthy homes inspections over the years.