environmental health, including toxicology, epidemiology, and risk assessment. For example, exposure information is critical in the design and interpretation of toxicology studies and is needed in epidemiology studies to compare outcomes in populations that have different exposure levels. Collection of better exposure data can provide more precise information regarding risk estimates and lead to improved public-health and ecosystem protection. For example, exposure science can improve characterization of populationwide exposure distributions, aggregate and cumulative exposures, and high-risk populations. Advancing and promoting exposure science will allow it to have a more effective role in toxicology, epidemiology, and risk assessment and to meet growing needs in environmental regulation, urban and ecosystem planning, and disaster management.
The committee identified emerging needs for exposure information. A central example is the knowledge gap resulting from the introduction of thousands of new chemicals into the market each year. Another example is the increasing need to address health effects of low-level exposures to chemical, biologic, and physical stressors over years or decades. Market demands also require the identification and control of exposures resulting from the manufacture, distribution, and sale of products. Societal demands for exposure data arise from the aspirations of individuals and communities—relying on an array of health, safety, and sustainability information—for example, to maintain local environments, personal health, the health of workers, and the global environment.
Recently, a number of activities have highlighted new opportunities for exposure science. For example, increasing collection and evaluation of bio-marker data through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey and other government efforts offer a potential for improving the evaluation of source—exposure and exposure—disease relationships. The development of the “exposome”, which conceptualizes that the totality of environmental exposures (including such factors as diet, stress, drug use, and infection) throughout a person’s life can be identified, offers an intriguing direction for exposure science. And the publication of two recent National Research Council reports—Toxicity Testing in the 21st Century: A Vision and a Strategy (2007) and Science and Decisions: Advancing Risk Assessment (2009)—have substantially advanced conceptual and experimental approaches in companion fields of toxicology and risk assessment while presenting tremendous opportunities for the growth and development of exposure science.
The above activities have been made possible largely by advances in tools and technologies—sensor systems, analytic methods, molecular technologies, computational tools, and bioinformatics—over the last decade, which are providing the potential for exposure data to be more accurate and more comprehensive than was possible in the past. The scientific and technologic advances also provide the potential for the development of an integrated systems approach to exposure science that is more fully coordinated with other fields of environmental health; can address scientific, regulatory, and societal challenges better; can provide exposure information to a larger swath of the population; and can