By Mitierra Johnson, Environmental Health Research Assistant
Christina Rosario is an environmental health program specialist at Albemarle Regional Health Services (ARHS). In this role, she promotes public health through implementation and evaluation of practices and conditions for residents. She also promotes health through education, surveillance, consultation, inspection, and enforcement of health laws and regulations.
Christina earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from Elizabeth City State University. In 2015, she started working as a microbiology analyst, primarily testing food products for national food manufacturing brands.
During her 4 years in this role, she conducted scientific analysis on various samples ranging from Field Irrigation water to Fresh Lump Crab Meat, gourmet cheesecakes, and baby food. The integrity of her reports directly correlated to public health and safety, and every lot tested for Salmonella/E.coli had the potential to affect thousands of people.
This experience sparked her interest in finding a job with more of a direct impact on her community, and her journey began with the local 8 county health district that is Albemarle Regional Health Services in 2018.
Within her first year with ARHS, she achieved state authorizations to perform work in various areas of environmental health including restaurants and lodging, swimming pools, onsite wastewater, childcare centers, schools, and lead. After 4 years, she was promoted to her current role, focusing on the childhood lead poisoning prevention program and daycare/schools’ sanitation program.
Christina conducts field/home visits and works alongside regional specialists to conduct lead hazard investigations. When she’s not doing fieldwork, she is providing education to parents and homeowners and developing remediation plans that adhere to EPA guidance and NC Statutes.
Prior to working as an environmental health specialist, she had no idea that lead hazards were actively monitored and regulated. She knew lead paint was dangerous if it entered your bloodstream, but she was surprised by the number of regulations put in place in NC to ensure children’s safety.
Christina realized the prevalence of lead poisoning prevention in her community when she was working alongside a fellow co-worker and witnessed a child suffering from the effects of lead poisoning.
They worked together to educate the family and come up with creative actions to prevent further exposure. She followed up with pediatric nurses for testing and devised a plan to remediate sources of lead within the child’s home. Within months the child’s levels dropped significantly, and the house was tested and cleared of all known lead hazards. This first investigation sparked her interest and she wanted to be a part of the solution going forward.
Reflecting on her work Christina enjoys the fact that every day is different. Meeting new people, visiting new places, being able to see a change and make a difference is what keeps her coming back to work every day.
The job is challenging- regulating and enforcing rules, but those challenges make the rewards worth it. She still spends time conducting restaurant inspections and specifically enjoys plan review and permitting new establishments which gives her the opportunity to build rapport with operators and at the same time help open their dream businesses.