Community-Focused Exposure and Risk Screening Tool (C-FERST)

Issue

Communities and individuals are faced with exposure to many environmental stressors. They want to understand their health risks and how to prevent them, but face many obstacles. Accessing, integrating, and interpreting reliable information and data to identify risks, prioritize issues, and make decisions is a challenge.

Background

In response to this challenge, EPA is conducting research to enhance community-based cumulative risk assessments and developing tools to communicate that research to the public. One of these tools is C-FERST, the Community-Focused Exposure and Risk Screening Tool.

C-FERST is being developed as a community mapping, information access tool to help inform community assessments and decision-making. EPA scientists are partnering with local communities and EPA community programs to design and test C-FERST. This research responds to recommendations from the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Public Administration, and other Agency peer reviews. C-FERST is being developed under EPA’s Sustainable and Healthy Communities research program.

Expected Impact of C-FERST

C-FERST is expected to increase the availability and accessibility of information, maps, and related environmental data to help communities understand potential environmental public health issues in their communities. It also provides information about how other communities have managed similar issues, and recommendations from EPA and other federal agencies on reducing exposures and risks.  C-FERST can be used to engage communities in responding to the challenge of identifying environmental health issues and potential solutions; and help stakeholders make more informed, cost-effective decisions to improve public health.

Objectives and Approach

A goal of EPA’s Sustainable and Healthy Communities research program is to develop, apply, and provide tools for advancing the science and understanding of cumulative risk. These tools include information, strategies, human exposure models, databases, sampling and analytical methods, GIS maps, and web applications. C-FERST is one of the primary research products under this program. It will link to and complement other community-focused tools, such as the Enviro Atlas and the Eco-Health Relationships Browser. C-FERST will provide state-of-the-science information, data, and approaches for characterizing community exposures to environmental stressors that lead to cumulative human health risks.

C-FERST is being developed, piloted, and vetted in phases. The tool will be refined and populated over time with additional information and data about environmental issues of concern to communities. C-FERST users could include federal, state, or local agencies working with community partners, community leaders and members, and individuals in the general public.

Status of C-FERST

Prototype versions of C-FERST have been circulated within EPA for comment by partners and potential users. The C-FERST beta test version 1.0 was developed and tested in cooperation with several EPA-sponsored Community Action for Renewed Environment (CARE) program communities, and their EPA regional project officers.  An updated beta-version is currently available for pilot testing.

Future versions of C-FERST may incorporate additional features and research including: ongoing human exposure science; integration with ecological research and community decision-support tools; enhanced maps and environmental issue profiles; capacity for more complete cumulative and health impact assessments and risk ranking; non-chemical stressors research; "what-if" scenario options for assessing impacts of community actions; and additional tools to support sustainable communities.

References

  1. V. Zartarian and B. Schultz (2010). "The EPA's human exposure research program for assessing cumulative risk in communities." Journal of Exposure Science and Environmental Epidemiology. 20, 351-358.
  2. V.G. Zartarian, B.D. Schultz, T.M. Barzyk, M. Smuts, D. M. Hammond, M. Medina-Vera, A.M. Geller (2011). "The EPA's Community-Focused Exposure and Risk Screening Tool (C-FERST) and Its Potential Use for Environmental Justice Efforts". American Journal of Public Health. 101 (S1): S286-S294.
  3. National Research Council (2009). Science and Decisions: Advancing Risk Assessment , Washington, DC: National Academy of Sciences Press, Chapter 7 and elsewhere.
  4. National Academy of Public Administration (2009). Putting Community First: A Promising Approach to Federal Collaboration for Environmental Improvement: An Evaluation of the Community Action for a Renewed Environment (CARE) Demonstration Program, Washington, DC: National Academy of Public Administration.