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Earth Materials and Health: Research Priorities for Earth Science and Public Health
mental Protection Agency at the vermiculite (asbestos) mine in Libby, Montana.
The Department of Defense–Armed Forces Institute of Pathology (DOD–AFIP) specializes in pathology consultation, education, and research. The Department of Environmental and Toxicologic Pathology within the AFIP focuses on techniques for tissue analysis and maintains the INTOX Data Center, which includes the Medical Geology Database and Chronic Arseniasis Database. The Medical Geology Database contains information about sources of harmful materials in the environment, including exposure pathways and prediction of the movement of disease-causing agents. The AFIP has collaborated with USGS in the past, examining environmental problems, including arsenic exposure, caused by a 1996 tailings spill from an open-pit copper mine on Marinduque Island in the Philippines (Plumlee et al., 2000).
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)undertakes a variety of federal research, monitoring, standards setting, and enforcement activities to ensure environmental protection. Broadly, EPA’s mission is to protect human health and safeguard the natural environment. One collaborative effort currently under way is the Superfund Basic Research Program (SBRP), which is funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and coordinated with the EPA. The SBRP funds university-based multidisciplinary research on public health and remediation technologies at hazardous waste sites. The research supported by the program encompasses many fields, including chemistry, ecology, epidemiology, toxicology, molecular biology, hydrogeology, engineering, and soil science. EPA has also provided a list of emerging infectious agents that are of concern for waterborne transmission—the so-called Contaminant Candidate List (EPA, 2003).
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) performs a broad range of space-based research on the earth that includes a specific public health component within a broader environmental monitoring program. NASA collects data and funds external research aimed at enhancing decision support tools using observations and modeling of weather, climate and other environmental factors that influence disease vectors and air quality. NASA has partnered with the CDC to enhance the National Environmental Public Health Tracking Network, which uses estimates of ground-level ozone, particulate matter, and/or other atmospheric pollutants to provide warnings of increased risk of respiratory diseases such as asthma and emphysema. Other public health collaborations involve DoD, EPA, NIH, NOAA, and USGS.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) contains several organizations under its umbrella that conduct and support research at the earth science/public health interface. At the institute level, the National Insti-