By Mitierra Johnson, Environmental Health Research Assistant
Paula Cox, Environmental Health Manager, and Luke Van Eyk, Program Specialist, both work with the Guilford County Department of Public Health and have been working in the environmental health field for over 20 years.
Luke earned a Bachelor of Science degree in environmental health and a Master of Science degree in occupational safety and health from East Carolina University. For two years he interned in the Department of Environmental Health at East Carolina University.
With Guilford County, Luke’s responsibilities include conducting home assessments for children who have elevated blood lead levels, assisting homeowners with remediation plans, and inspecting tattoo shops and swimming pools. He is also a radiation safety officer, which means he can use a device to determine if there is lead in a specific source.
When Luke first began his career in environmental health, he worked on septic tanks and wells for ten years but knew he wanted to help communities in a greater capacity, so he decided to pursue working in lead poisoning prevention.
Luke learned about the NC Lead and Healthy Homes Task Force from his supervisor Paula Cox, and he has been attending meetings since 2012.
“Being able to meet new people from different backgrounds is always exciting,” Luke says.
“Language barriers can be challenging when communicating with families during home assessments, but one of the most difficult aspects of my job is getting homeowners to remediate when lead hazards are present.”
In his spare time, Luke enjoys camping, hiking, hunting, and learning new things.
Paula earned a Bachelor of Science degree in environmental science at the University of North Carolina at Asheville and a Master of Science degree in environmental health from East Carolina University.
Paula has a diverse background. Prior to working in environmental health, she worked in sales for ten years and then created medical devices for ten years.
She says, “Working in the environmental health field has been the most fulfilling. I love the connection between people and the environment and educating people on why we do this work.” One of her favorite aspects about her job is food safety, she loves making sure people are consuming food that is safe.
“Bringing in new staff who are excited about the environmental health profession and being able to see their knowledge and skills grow has also been rewarding,” she notes.
One of most challenging aspects of her job is getting people to understand the complexity of lead polices and understanding why environmental health is necessary.
There was not a specific event that begin Paula’s interest in this work, but she says, “I love the marriage of science and education that environmental health offers.”
With Guilford County, Paula is responsible for managing all aspects that fall under the environmental health umbrella, including swimming pools, lead, tattoos, food, special events, and childcare. She is also the lead person for accreditation.
Paula has been involved with the NC Lead Healthy Homes Task Force for over 20 years.
In 2009, she received an award for Environmental Health Specialist of the year, based on her efforts towards Healthy Homes.
In her free time, Paula enjoys gardening, upholstery, and sewing.