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Environ Monit Assess. 2001 Jan;66(1):23-46.

On developing bioindicators for human and ecological health.

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  • 1Division of Life Sciences, Consortium for Risk Evaluation with Stakeholder Participation, and Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Institute, Rutgers University, Piscataway, New Jersey, USA.


Risk assessors and risk managers generally either examine ecological health (using bioindicators) or human health (using biomarkers of exposure or effect). In this paper we suggest that it is possible and advantageous to develop bioindicators that can be used to assess exposure and effect for both human and non-human receptors. We describe the characteristics of suitable bioindicators for both human and ecological health, using mourning doves (Zenaida macroura), raccoons (Procyon lotor), and bluefish (Pomatomus saltatrix) as examples, and list the general characteristics of other species that would make them useful indicators for assessing both human and ecological health. Bioindicators can be used cross-sectionally to assess the status of ecosystems and risk as well as longitudinally for monitoring changes or evaluating remediation. For both human and ecological risk assessment, there are three sets of characteristics to consider when selecting bioindicators: biological relevance, methodological relevance, and societal relevance. An indicator which fails to fulfill these is not likely to be considered cost-effective and is likely to be abandoned. The indicator should be readily measured and must measure an important range of impacts. For long-term support of a bioindicator, the indicator should be easily understood, and be cost effective. We suggest that bioindicators that can also be used for both ecological and human health risk assessment are optimal.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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