Environmental Epidemiology and Risk Assessment: Exploring a Path to Increased Confidence in Public Health Decision-Making

  • Publication Date :
  • Publication Type : Journal Article
  • Author(s) : Déglin SE, Chen CL, Miller DJ, Lewis RJ, Chang ET, Hamade AK, & Erickson HS
  • Journal Name : Global Epidemiology

Throughout history, environmental epidemiology has proven crucial to identify certain threats to human health and to provide a basis for the development of life-saving public health policies. However, epidemiologists are facing challenges when studying tenuous threats such as environmental exposure to chemicals, whose association with adverse health effects may be difficult to characterize. As a result, epidemiological data can seldom be fully leveraged for quantitative risk assessment and decision-making. Despite two decades of efforts to improve a more systematic integration of human data to evaluate human health risks, assessors still heavily rely on animal data to do so, while epidemiology plays more of a secondary role. Although the need for more and better collaboration between risk assessors and epidemiologists is widely recognized, both fields tend to remain siloed. In 2017, the Health and Environmental Sciences Institute initiated a project engaging the epidemiology, exposure science, and regulatory communities with tripartite representation from regulators, industry, and academia in a dialogue on the use of environmental epidemiology for regulatory decision-making. Several focus groups attended by epidemiology, exposure science, and risk assessment experts were organized to explore incentives and barriers to collaboration, to ultimately bridge the gap between the various disciplines, and to realize the full potential of epidemiological data in risk assessment. Various ideas that have emerged from these meetings could help ensure the better integration of epidemiological data in quantitative risk assessment and contribute to building confidence in a robust and science-based regulatory decision-making process.

Full text online: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2590113321000018

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