Exposure, Epidemiology and New Frontiers in Human Health Risk Assessment
Written by Robert Coyle
Interestingly, this years meeting was held jointly with the International Society for Environmental Epidemiology (ISEE) and the International Society of Indoor Air Quality (ISIAQ) in the scenic location of Basel, Switzerland. The combination of the three societies together meant the conference received an impressively large attendance with 2,095 scientific contributions in 96 oral sessions, 41 symposia and over 1,000 poster presentations. Creme Global conducted a workshop, two poster presentations, an oral presentation and chaired a session on organic pollutants.
The first day consisted of pre-conference workshops, with Creme Global hosting a three-hour workshop on probabilistic dietary exposure assessment data and models. The basic concepts behind assessing dietary exposure to food chemicals was presented, with particular focus on probabilistic modelling. Our flagship software Creme Food Safety was used to conduct the workshop and participants ran a number of worked examples using methylmercury in fish to demonstrate the main ideas. Aside from a few technical issues with the conference centre’s wifi (which the organisers did everything they could to resolve), the session was a great success. There was a mixture of regulators, industry and academic researchers participating which lead to a vast array of lively discussions, in particular around the topic of how to look at different at-risk subpopulations in an exposure assessment.
The joint meeting of the three societies was very apt, as all areas feed into and require input from one another. Epidemiology is the study of the patterns and causes of disease and health effects in different populations, and has relevant links to exposure assessment. To give a flavour of why, sessions titles included “Ultrafine particles – importance of indoor sources, exposure and potential health effects”, “Engineered nanomaterials: current understanding on exposure and potential health effects”, and “Arsenic in rice: exposure and health outcomes”. If a link between the exposure to a chemical and a health outcome or disease is established, then knowing the exposure in any at-risk population quickly becomes vital information in order to ensure the protection of human health.
The oral session I gave was on a probabilistic model we developed for food packaging migrants within the FACET project, which is always of interest considering substances like BPA are always making headlines. My two poster presentations on the other hand were on work we are currently conducting with the Research Institute for Fragrance Materials (RIFM), where we are developing models and software for aggregate exposure to fragrances in cosmetics and personal care products. There was particular interest in the databases we have developed, as we now have a novel way of assessing exposure to the multitude of combinations of products consumers use day to day. Assessing this aggregate exposure was, as always, a hot topic. This has applications across all substances used in cosmetics and personal care products.
One of the take home messages this year was once again that our chemical universe is expanding, and human health must be protected considering the multiple ways we are exposed. So have no doubt, exposure assessment is here to stay!