Biomarkers: key to exposure reconstruction
Fraile Rodriguez, Arantxa Department of Fundamental Physics and Institute of Nanoscience and Technology, University of Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain.
Phillips, Martin National Exposure Research Laboratory, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Research Triangle Park, North Carolina.
Chen, Gang Department of Mechanical Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Chang, Daniel T. National Exposure Research Laboratory, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Research Triangle Park, North Carolina.
Goldsmith, Michael-Rock National Exposure Research Laboratory, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Research Triangle Park, North Carolina.
- Biomarkers of exposure
- Incorporating biomarkers in exposure reconstruction
- Examples of computational models
- Links to Primary Literature
- Additional Readings
The goal of environmental health science is to understand the interplay between the environment and humans to evaluate the effects of human activities on the public health and environment and, conversely, to evaluate the effects of various aspects of the environment on human health. When investigating the effects that exposures to chemicals have on human health, the major challenge lies in establishing the causal relationship between the magnitude of exposure to these chemicals and the incidence of adverse outcomes (such as cancer and irritation) at various biological endpoints. This causal relationship can be established only when all elements on the source–exposure–dose–effect continuum are linked (Fig. 1). For an adverse health outcome to occur, the chemical has to be released from a source, transported through environmental media, reach a human receptor, enter the body, and sufficiently accumulate to cause biological changes that ultimately overwhelm the adaptive mechanisms and to result in adverse health outcomes. For example, it has been established that second-hand smoke leads to an increased risk of several diseases. In this scenario, cigarette smoke is released from a source, the burning cigarette. It is transported through the environmental medium of air and reaches a human receptor, perhaps a patron in a restaurant who inhales the smoke-laden air. Cigarette smoke then enters the body through absorption in the lungs, whereupon its chemicals (for example, carcinogens and carbon monoxide) distributed to various organs and tissues, leading to an increased risk of lung cancer, asthma, pneumonia, and heart disease. Thus, to verify a causal relationship between an observed health effect and exposures to the chemical(s) of interest, exposure reconstruction is one of the necessary processes. The term exposure reconstruction is defined here as a process for identifying the specific exposure sources and routes, as well as the frequency, duration, and magnitude of the exposure.
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