Researching exposure to environmental hazards

While historical evidence demonstrates that the environment may cause or amplify disease, current understanding of the nature and mechanisms of these effects is elusive and limited by current medical knowledge.

Research into environmental health hazards is obstructed by the general public's - and medical community's - lack of access to information on toxic substances. Unlike general health research, environmental health research is also limited by the lack of centralized mechanisms to articulate concerns over environmental threats from members of affected communities. Often those directly affected by environmental health hazards are the poor, the young, the elderly and the marginalised.

Environmental health research is hampered by environmental and health officials who continue to develop policies including children as "little adults" disregarding their unique multiple exposures to toxic substances. Officials also fail to differentiate between the adverse health consequences of toxic substance exposures between children in affluent and low-income communities, and fail to distinguish the disparate cultural, nutritional, and other factors among different ethnic groups.

Current guidelines and procedures that govern testing and risk assessment of industrial chemicals are based on a chemical-by-chemical approach, looking for one specific chemical's adverse health effects in a single exposure. Such an approach does not take into account the possible adverse effects of both cumulative exposures and simultaneous exposures to different chemicals. Current workplace policies regarding exposures - main source of general public policy - do not adequately protect the general public.

Comprehensive reviews are required for most national government's policies and data collection methods for environmental health with new guidelines created for coordinating policies devoted to preventing exposures to toxic substances. More rigorous testing and licensing standards are required for chemicals used in industry, including thorough testing of these chemicals by national authorities for their toxic effects on health, taking into account multiple exposures and cumulative effects.
1. Research in sustainable agriculture and integrated pest management (IPM) in order to reduce pesticide use will assist in reducing environmental hazard exposure. In particular, definitions of IPM are required so that ambiguity in regulations will not err on the side of continued pesticide use.

2. An effort needs to be made to assess on an on-going basis environmental risks which are more prevalent in racial and ethnic communities.

Type Classification:
E: Emanations of other strategies