Each day, every citizen of the U.S. is exposed to an unknown number of natural and synthetic chemicals in her or his environment--through the air we breathe, the food we eat, the water we drink, and the consumer products we use as a part of our daily routines. Most researchers working in environmental and public health now recognize that these daily exposures likely play a significant role in our health and well being across the life course. The 2008-2009 Annual Report of the Presidents Cancer Panel, Reducing Environmental Cancer Risk, for example, highlighted evidence of widespread human exposure to industrial chemicals and the serious concern that environmentally induced cancer risks have been profoundly underestimated and under-documented. Yet, despite some new tools, such as human biomonitoring and the advancements in analytical chemistry, that can measure the chemical burden that individual bodies carry with increasing degrees of exactness and sophistication, the field of environmental exposure studies has not received anywhere near the level of investment given to other techniques. For example, public and private investment in the measurement and investigation of the relation between genomic connections and health outcomes outweighs investment in the development and use of environmental exposure technologies.

This workshop is devoted to addressing the following questions: What counts as evidence when documenting environmental exposures? How can social scientists, engineers, and computer scientists collaborate to produce innovations in data collection and analysis? How can environmental exposures be made to matter in public policy? The workshop will bring together researchers from a diversity of disciplinary backgrounds and institutions to develop strategies for collecting and translating environmental exposure data into health and policy contexts. The workshop will draw on the expertise developed in fields such as sociology, science and technology studies, epidemiology, information systems, environmental engineering, and biosensors as well as tools for translation and contextualization. More data and/or new exposure technologies, however, do not necessarily result in meaningful knowledge. This workshop aims to foster collaboration across disciplines to ensure that efforts to develop new exposure technologies and methods benefit from input from a variety of fields.

The workshop will have broad impact by producing a set of possible initiatives for collecting new data and making better use of existing environmental exposure data. The workshop will include graduate students as participants. Workshop findings will be distributed widely on the Chemical Heritage Foundation website and through print sources to ensure broad access.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Social and Economic Sciences (SES)
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Linda Layne
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Chemical Heritage Foundation
United States
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