To retain its value, the principal goal of exposure science must continue to be the prevention and mitigation of adverse exposures to protect human and ecosystem health with a focus on the routes by which environmental stressors reach humans and ecosystems.
Given that vision, exposure science can maintain and augment its relevance to the everyday lives of citizens as they seek measures to protect their health and the health of the ecosystems on which they depend. Exposure science also will continue to contribute to understanding of exposures in numerous settings—outdoors, indoors, and in the occupational environment—and of how those exposures internalize in an organism.
Implicit in the eco-exposome concept is the recognition that humans live in and are part of an ecosphere and that human exposures are intimately linked to exposures flowing through ecosystems. Efforts to understand ecosystem exposures will improve our knowledge of how exposures affect human populations and individuals. Narrating the flow and pulse of exposures through the ecosphere, of which humans are part, also promotes a more thorough investigation of the potential sources of exposure and how these sources can be controlled to protect public and ecosystem health. Because the life courses of humans and ecosystems are dynamic, the eco-exposome will have to evolve scientifically to define what constitutes a biologically relevant exposure.
The committee’s vision is premised on scientific developments of the last decade. Advances in local sensor systems, remote sensing, analytic methods, molecular technologies, computational modeling systems, and bioinformatics have provided opportunities to develop systems approaches that can be integrated into exposure science. There is now an unprecedented opportunity to consider exposures from source to dose, on multiple levels of integration within the ecosphere (including time, space, and biologic scales), to multiple stressors, and scaled from molecular systems to individuals, populations, and ecosystems.
Many of the scientific innovations have been in fields outside traditional exposure science, and achieving the vision will require higher levels of transdisciplinary and interagency cooperation than have occurred in the field of exposure science in the past. In addition, collaborative approaches will be needed to engage communities and stakeholders from problem formulation through data collection to development of responsive solutions and to improve communication among and participation by stakeholders. Such engagement strategies in field studies can lead to more comprehensive application of exposure-science tools to health and environmental protection, including issues of environmental justice.
In this report, the committee presents a roadmap of how technologic innovations and strategic collaborations can advance exposure science in the 21st century. The committee believes that exposure science needs to deliver knowledge that is effective, timely, and relevant to current and future environmental-health challenges. To do so, exposure science needs to continue to build capacity to