National Research Council releases report on Exposure Science in the 21st Century commissioned by EPA and NIEHS
Recognizing that exposure science is a key component for providing the best public health and ecosystem protection, EPA has taken several steps to ensure that the science and research that informs Agency decisions keeps pace with current and emerging environmental issues.
One step was to request the National Academies, as independent advisers on scientific matters, develop a long-range vision for exposure science in the 21st century, and a strategy for implementing this vision over the next twenty years. The report, Exposure Science in the 21st Century: A Vision and a Strategy, was released in 2012 by the National Academies. This report along with three other NAS reports, Toxicity Testing in the 21st Century, Science and Decisions: Advancing Risk Assessment and Sustainability and the US EPAchart the future directions for using innovative technology and scientific advances to better understand how chemicals impact human health and the environment.
The report was commissioned in 2010 by EPA with additional support from NIEHS and was authored by a scientific panel convened by the National Academies’ National Research Council (NRC).
The report outlines a framework for advancing exposure science to study how humans and ecosystems interact with chemical, biological, and physical stressors in their environments. The report also describes scientific and technologic advances needed to support the long-range vision for exposure science in the 21st century and concludes with a discussion of the elements needed to realize it. Some examples of the needed elements outlined in the report are:
- Use state-of-the-art methods and technologies such as remote sensing and global positioning to gather exposure information.
- Incorporate advances in genomic technologies and informatics to systematically assemble the vast amounts of different exposure data types.
- Engage stakeholders who want to contribute exposure data and studies.
- Coordinate exposure research through a formal collaboration with other Federal agencies (similar to Toxicity Testing in the 21st Century-Tox21) such as USGS, NIEHS, NOAA, CDC, NSF and NASA.
- Train and educate the next generation of exposure scientists.
EPA’s exposure research approach is already aligning with the research recommendations described in the NRC report. Examples include:
- Development of molecular technologies and biomarkers to measure signatures of human and ecosystem exposures to environmental stressors (i.e., Saliva-based methods for detecting exposure to waterborne pathogens and Exposure biomarkers for aquatic organisms);
- Development of predictive models for understanding exposures to chemicals and other environmental pollutants (i.e., EPA’s Stochastic Human Exposure and Dose Model (SHEDS) and the Community Multi-Scale Air Quality Model (CMAQ);
- Development of tools for communities to identify and manage important health risks, i.e., EPA’s Community-Focused Exposure and Risk Screening Tool (C-FERST) and the Tribal-Focused Environmental Risk and Sustainability Tool (T-FERST);
- Development of models and tools to evaluate exposures to tens of thousands of chemicals in commerce (i.e., Expocast);
- Evaluation and application of sensor technologies and crowd-sourcing techniques to rapidly collect real-time information to be used by individuals and communities;
- Development and application of state-of-the art methods for monitoring chemicals and microbials in water, air, food, soil, dust (i.e. DNA-based method for determining safety of recreational water, and analytical methods for measuring contaminants in drinking water);
- Collection and mapping of environmental datasets from multiple sources and displaying them in formats that allow users to understand important spatial aspects of exposure (i.e., the Atlas);
- Development of new testing methods for determining bioavailability of chemicals in soil at Superfund sites.
Exposure science is critical for predicting, preventing and reducing human health and ecosystem risks.
It is instrumental in helping to:
- Forecast, prevent, and mitigate exposures;
- Identify populations that have high exposures;
- Assess and manage human health and ecosystem risks;
- Protect vulnerable and susceptible populations; and
- Evaluate sustainable solutions to environmental problems.
For more information on EPA exposure science visit www.epa.gov/nerl