|ATSDR is mandated by Congress to conduct public health assessments, health studies, surveillance
activities, and health education at federal NPL waste sites, as well as
develop toxicological profiles of high-priority chemicals found at these
The Division of Health Assessment and Consultation conducts public health assessments and related activities, issues public health advisories, and provides public health consultations.
A key component of the public health assessment process is exposure evaluation. For people to possibly suffer adverse effects or disease associated with hazardous substances, they must be first exposed to them. In 1991, the National Research Council recognized that public health assessments could be an important source of information about the nature and extent of environmental exposure to hazardous substances. The National Research Council pointed to the general lack of scientifically based information on how substances move from a source to expose persons living near sites. In response, ATSDR initiated a series of activities intended to better determine the factors that influence how substances reach nearby populations, estimate the extent of exposure, and better define who is actually likely to be exposed as a result of chemical releases into the environment. After a period of development, ATSDR began to routinely use a variety of methods and approaches as integral components of the public health assessment process. These include:
These techniques provide the scientific support for evaluating exposures when conducting
public health assessments. This chapter highlights these methods and approaches
and gives examples of how they have been used in the public health assessment
process. The integration of these techniques helps to provide a clearer
spatial and temporal picture (i.e., a series of snapshots of places and
time) of the potential for exposures in the past, present, and future.