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Earth Materials and Health: Research Priorities for Earth Science and Public Health
inhalation of complex mixtures of pathogens and chemical and biochemical species in airborne pollution require detailed geological investigations of earth sources and the identification of atmospheric pathways to sites of bioaccessibility and potential ingestion by humans. The anticipation and prevention of health effects caused by earth-sourced air pollution prior to the onset of illness require quantitative knowledge of the geospatial context of earth materials and related disease vectors.
Determining the influence of biogeochemical cycling of trace elements in water and soils as it relates to low-dose chronic exposure via toxic elements in foods and ultimately its influence on human health. In general, little is known of the elemental interactions and the influence of mixtures of elements on bioavailability in soils; in residential, industrial, and irrigated water supplies; and within the human body.
Determining the distribution, survival, and transfer of plant and human pathogens through soil with respect to the geological framework. Collaboration would involve earth scientists to characterize the biogeochemical habitat, such as the exchangeable cations, mobile metal species, and/or reactive geochemical surfaces, including sources of nutrients, or the presence of antagonistic and/or synergistic metal species. Microbiologists would characterize the microbial community that surrounds the pathogen and examine its viability in different biogeochemical habitats, and public health specialists would examine the incidence of human and plant disease from soil pathogens as a function of the biogeochemical framework and the role of soils in long-term survival of pathogens and as reservoirs of pathogens.
Improving our understanding of the relationship between disease and both metal speciation and metal-metal interaction. In this research, earth scientists would characterize metal abundance and metal speciation in water and soils and the mobility and availability of these metals to the biosphere; microbiologists would characterize the microbial populations and mechanisms that are responsible for metal species transitions in water and soil environments; and public health specialists would use spatial information on the distribution of metal speciation to examine the incidence and transfer of specific disease.
Identifying and quantifying the health risks posed by “emerging” contaminants, including newly discovered pathogens and pharmaceutical chemicals, which are transported by earth processes. The health effects of many naturally occurring substances at low concentrations and the health effects associated with interactions of multiple naturally occurring substances are poorly understood. A particular focus should be the “emerging” contaminants, such as hormones, pharmaceuticals, personal care products, and newly identified microbial pathogens, for which sources and transport processes are poorly understood. The synergistic