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Earth Materials and Health: Research Priorities for Earth Science and Public Health
discussion briefly reviews the existing situation, and then provides suggestions for mechanisms that have the greatest potential for encouraging communication and research collaboration at the interface of earth science and public health.
EXISTING RESEARCH ACTIVITY AND COLLABORATIONS
The key research stakeholders and organizations include individual researchers in academic institutions and private industry as well as a range of federal agencies that either undertake research themselves and/ or fund external research. It appears that little research is undertaken by state and local agencies at the intersection of earth science and public health, with these agencies predominantly having a regulatory role with the science base for regulation largely based on federal research activities.
In the course of its discussions and deliberations, the committee received briefings from most of the agencies and organizations involved in research at the interface of earth science and public health. These agencies have far-ranging missions, varying approaches, and differing levels of involvement with research in the earth science/public health arena. The organizations, agencies, and programs described here are not meant to comprise an exhaustive list but rather are intended to identify the major players, both current and potential, in collaborative earth science and public health research.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention–National Centerfor Environmental Health (CDC–NCEH) within the Department of Health and Human Services works toward prevention of illness, disability, and death caused by noninfectious and nonoccupational environmental factors through surveillance, applied research, and outreach. In collaboration with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the NCEH is developing a National Environmental Public Health Tracking Network, to integrate environmental hazard and exposure data with data about diseases that are possibly linked to the environment. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), an agency within the CDC, jointly addresses environmental public health threats with the NCEH. The ATSDR is an advisory, nonregulatory public health agency that provides health information and public health assessments for toxic substance exposures. Among the tools the ATSDR uses to carry out its mission are toxicological profiles and exposure and disease registries. The current collection of toxicological profiles covers over 250 toxic substances, including arsenic, cadmium, and radon. These profiles contain health effects, exposure pathways, and chemical and physical information. Its collaborative efforts include mineralogical characterization of fibrous amphiboles with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and Environ-