Commerce (DoC), DoD, DoE, Transportation (DoT), EPA, and the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

  • Exposure pathways (including air, water, and soil). Responsible agencies include the U.S. Departments of Agriculture (DoA), Interior (DoI), DoC, and EPA.

Additionally, environmental health concerns are often specific to a localized region or a particular population, because, for example, of a chemical spill (e.g., Superfund sites) or an occupational exposure. As a result significant sources of data at the state and local levels are incorporated into databases. Many authoritative international sources of toxicology and environmental health information are also available, including the International Agency for Research on Cancer, the International Labour Office's Occupational Safety and Health Information Centre, and the United Nations Environmental Programme. The private-sector is also involved in the development of online factual and bibliographic databases related to toxicology and environmental health.

Each agency, organization, or business collects and organizes information specific to its mission and develops online databases each with its own focus, search language, and unique database fields and input methodologies. Generally, there is no standardization of data collection, storage, analysis, retrieval, or reporting of environmental health data across the federal government or between the private and public sectors (Sexton et al., 1992). Database software and search interfaces use diverse computer operating systems that are frequently incompatible (Lu and Wassom, 1992). Thus, the challenges to health professionals and other interested users of environmental health information are, first, to be aware of and locate the database(s) that contains the information to address their question; second, to have the proper computer connection to the database(s); and finally, to understand the background and nature of the information, including the implications of data collection methodologies.

Table 3.1 lists only a sample of the toxicology and environmental health databases available. It focuses primarily on federal government databases and is not a comprehensive list, but rather serves to illustrate the number and diversity of information resources available in this field (see also EPA et al., 1992; Wexler, 1988). Additionally, it should be noted that there are a rapidly expanding number of Internet Web sites that compile information on this field and that aim to provide information to diverse audiences including advocacy groups and the general public.

It is not within the scope of this report to address the plethora of issues that would be involved in attempting to coordinate the development and management of environmental health databases at the federal level or beyond. The committee is aware of several ongoing coordination efforts within the federal government. The DHHS Data Council is addressing issues relevant to the coor

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