Is Your Environment Making You Sick?

Is Your Environment Making You Sick?
Arts & Culture

New app, 'My Place History' helps uses track the various toxins they may have been exposed to over the course of their lives which could be a valuable asset for their medical history.

Allie Walker
  • 16 june 2012

When you make a visit to your doctor’s office, you typically have to fill out a form that details your medical and lifestyle history- Do you smoke, drink? What medications are you currently taking? Has anyone in your family had cancer, heart disease, a history of stomach ulcers? Any allergies? Any surgeries? Yet Bill Davenhall, a health and human services expert, wants to know where you’ve lived, arguing that genetics, lifestyle, and a person’s environment paint the best, most complete picture of a person’s health risk factors. With a new iPhone and desktop mapping tool, called ‘My Place History‘ that links public health information with a person’s environmental experience, Davenhall hopes to close that knowledge gap.

Davenhall arrived at his conclusions when he suffered a heart attack in 2001, which prompted him to look through his medical history for risk factors. After extensive research, he realized a large chunk of data was missing- his place history. He started mapping the major areas he’d lived in; he’d grown up in Scranton, PA near a coal factory, had spent a significant portion of his life living next to a rubber-making factory in Louisville, KY, and was currently residing in smog-ridden Los Angeles. When he cross-referenced his place history with government geo-data mapping toxin levels, he realized he had unknowingly primed himself to be a perfect candidate for a heart attack.

What existed (and still exist today) in two separate vacuums was Davenhall’s medical history and readily available geographical health data. Today, Davenhall is a champion of geo-medicine, attempting to bridge the gap between the two data sets by incorporating environmental data into medical records, arguing that had his doctors known his place history, he (and they) would have been better equipped to know his potential health risks:

While I cannot prove that any one of my specific environments caused my heart attack, there was plenty of evidence that some of the contaminants I had been exposed to in places where I had lived were well known precursors to circulatory and respiratory disease—and yes, heart attacks. It was at this moment that I realized that a physician looking at my health history, in the absence of any specific information about my unique environmental exposures (geographically), would be less likely to warn me, let alone guide me away from the oncoming train wreck…Every place I have ever lived and will live is part of my medical history. The impact of breathing bad air in many of the places I have lived will surely follow me wherever I go, and therefore, my medical record should be automatically informed about new research findings of relevant health risks. Unfortunately, today my medical record, and probably yours as well, is already a vast collection of clinical facts, observations, test results and diagnostic conclusions but remains silent about the accumulation of environmental health impacts and risks.

Davenhall asks, what would your place history tell you about your own health risks? With the added context of place history, would you be able to better see what health issues may be in your future?

To that end, Davenhall’s company Esri, the largest geographic information system (GIS) software developer in the world, developed ‘My Place History’ to let anyone see their environmental risk factors by simply typing in the zip codes of where they’ve lived to see what toxins they’ve been exposed to over time. While the platform lacks a linkage between common health problems and the contributing toxins, it has the potential to arm patients and health care professionals with another valuable pool of data to assess an individual’s- and a community’s- elevated risks, and is a positive development for how to make more informed, healthier lifestyle choices.

My Place History


PSFK has partnered with Boehringer Ingelheim to bring you a steady stream of inspiring news and ideas in the health and wellness space. Once each week, we will be posting an article on If you would like to gain access to the full stream of content, please check out Boehringer Ingelheim’s Facebook page, where they are publishing a regular stream of inspiring and informative content.

Arts & Culture

Dubai And The Future Of Humanitarian Design

Design & Architecture
Technology Yesterday

Concept Camera Designed To Only Take Unique Photos

Camera Restricta is tool that prompts photographers to only capture one-of-a-kind images

Design & Architecture Yesterday

Fragrance Will Release The Smell Of Data If Your Private Information Is Being Leaked

The device is designed to create a physical cue for the potential dangers lurking online


Get PSFK's Related Report: Sports Debrief

See All
Retail Yesterday

LYNK & CO Is A New Auto Brand That Promises Mobile Connectivity On Wheels

Online access and mobility sharing are driving the company to disrupt the auto industry

Travel Yesterday

Become A Citizen Of The First Nation In Space

Asgardia is a new concept for a floating society above Earth

Entertainment Yesterday

Speaker Displays Song Lyrics As Music Is Played

The device is able to generate the graphics on a translucent screen and retrieve the words from a connected database

AI Yesterday

Travel Assistant Scans Your Emails To Make Planning Easier

This AI add-on will sync with your inbox and sends reminders to make sure you don't miss anything important


Future Of Automotive
Scenarios Driving The Digital Transformation Of An Industry

PSFK Op-Ed october 17, 2016

Home Depot Green Energy Expert: Americans Are Taking Control Of Their Power Use

Green tech expert Jennifer Tuohy discusses new home energy tech and developments for renewables in the US

PSFK Labs Yesterday

PSFK Picks: Top 5 Performance-Enhancing Wearables

Our new report looks at innovations pioneering the future of performance through intelligent activewear and predictive analytics

Millennials Yesterday

FOMO Survival Kit Helps Millennials Cope With Social Anxieties

The satirical product is meant to be a playful diversion for people who feel like they are missing out

Food Yesterday

New York Restaurant Uses Tomato Sushi As Its Newest Meat Alternative

fresh&co is using sous vide Roma tomatoes to create a vegan option that has the texture and taste of tuna

Advertising Yesterday

Red Bull Converts Sao Paulo Payphones Into Data-Driven Bus Schedules

The booths allow city residents to check local transit times through a simple toll-free phone call

Work Yesterday

Health Expert: Nutritional Meal Replacements Are A Solution To Corporate Wellness

Ample Foods Founder Connor Young explains why supplements are the next food trend coming to the workplace

Retail Yesterday

Why Experiential Events Could Replace Trade Shows

Marketers are seeking creative and impactful new ways to connect with influencers

Children Yesterday

Modular Kit Teaches Kids How To Make Their Own Robots

MODI features magnetic modules and a platform for programming to encourage experimentation

Infants Yesterday

Work Table Doubles As A Baby Seat

Designer Kunsik Choi created the furniture to facilitate emotional communication between between parents and their children

Technology Yesterday

Album Turns Into Something New Each Time It’s Streamed

Bill Baird's new album explores the relationship between time and music through a website crafted by design team, One Pixel Wide

No search results found.