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Challenges of exposure assessment for health studies in the aftermath of chemical incidents and disasters

Abstract

Exposure assessment during and after acute chemical incidents and disasters is essential for health studies that may follow. During chemical incidents, the focus usually lies on risk assessment and afterward attention shifts toward possible (long-term) health effects. This may lead to insufficient available data on exposure to study the association between exposure and health outcome, and collection of additional exposure data is often required. Literature on health studies conducted after several chemical incidents was reviewed to obtain better insight on the needs of health studies. Four different types of scenarios were distinguished based on when exposure data were collected and the exposure data used for health studies. These four scenarios gave insight on exposure data needed for conclusive health studies and when different methods of exposure data collection should be used. Literature indicated that adequate and rapid exposure assessment during chemical incidents is vital for health studies, because data that are not collected during or directly after an incident may be irretrievably lost. Poor exposure assessment is not always the only problem in health studies. Problems in health studies including poor exposure assessment may be prevented when the general design and needs of health studies are taken into account when designing contingency plans. Together with measures that will help facilitate funding, design, and coordination of health studies, disaster management programs should, among others, prepare for methods that lead to a swift identification of released substances, determination of concentrations and dispersion of released substances, designing basic questionnaire outlines, and rapid evaluation of the usefulness and necessity of employing biological sampling.

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Acknowledgements

We thank Professor Paul Lioy for his valuable comments on the draft manuscript. This study is funded by the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment, the Netherlands.

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Correspondence to Nicole A H Janssen.

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Bongers, S., Janssen, N., Reiss, B. et al. Challenges of exposure assessment for health studies in the aftermath of chemical incidents and disasters. J Expo Sci Environ Epidemiol 18, 341–359 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1038/jes.2008.23

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/jes.2008.23

Keywords

  • chemical incident
  • disasters
  • epidemiological study
  • exposure assessment
  • literature review

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