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Epidemiology: a foundation of environmental decision making

Abstract

Many epidemiologic studies are designed so they can be drawn upon to provide scientific evidence for evaluating hazards of environmental exposures, conducting quantitative assessments of risk, and informing decisions designed to reduce or eliminate harmful exposures. However, experimental animal studies are often relied upon for environmental and public health policy making despite the expanding body of observational epidemiologic studies that could inform the relationship between actual, as opposed to controlled, exposures and health effects. This paper provides historical examples of how epidemiology has informed decisions at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, discusses some challenges with using epidemiology to inform decision making, and highlights advances in the field that may help address these challenges and further the use of epidemiologic studies moving forward.

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Acknowledgements

All authors were employed at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency at the time of the writing of this article.

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Correspondence to Kathleen C. (Kacee) Deener.

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Deener, K.C.(., Sacks, J.D., Kirrane, E.F. et al. Epidemiology: a foundation of environmental decision making. J Expo Sci Environ Epidemiol 28, 515–521 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41370-018-0059-4

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Keywords

  • Epidemiology
  • criteria air pollutants; disease
  • exposure modeling

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