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Leveraging Epidemiology to Improve Risk Assessment.


The field of environmental public health is at an important crossroad. Our current biomonitoring efforts document widespread exposure to a host of chemicals for which toxicity information is lacking. At the same time, advances in the fields of genomics, proteomics, metabolomics, genetics and epigenetics are yielding volumes of data at a rapid pace. Our ability to detect chemicals in biological and environmental media has far outpaced our ability to interpret their health relevance, and as a result, the environmental risk paradigm, in its current state, is antiquated and ill-equipped to make the best use of these new data. In light of new scientific developments and the pressing need to characterize the public health burdens of chemicals, it is imperative to reinvigorate the use of environmental epidemiology in chemical risk assessment. Two case studies of chemical assessments from the Environmental Protection Agency Integrated Risk Information System database are presented to illustrate opportunities where epidemiologic data could have been used in place of experimental animal data in dose-response assessment, or where different approaches, techniques, or studies could have been employed to better utilize existing epidemiologic evidence. Based on the case studies and what can be learned from recent scientific advances and improved approaches to utilizing human data for dose-response estimation, recommendations are provided for the disciplines of epidemiology and risk assessment for enhancing the role of epidemiologic data in hazard identification and dose-response assessment.

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