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Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2011 Jun;8(6):2020-73. doi: 10.3390/ijerph8062020. Epub 2011 Jun 8.

Non-chemical stressors and cumulative risk assessment: an overview of current initiatives and potential air pollutant interactions.

Author information

1
Gradient, 20 University Road, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA. alewis@gradientcorp.com

Abstract

Regulatory agencies are under increased pressure to consider broader public health concerns that extend to multiple pollutant exposures, multiple exposure pathways, and vulnerable populations. Specifically, cumulative risk assessment initiatives have stressed the importance of considering both chemical and non-chemical stressors, such as socioeconomic status (SES) and related psychosocial stress, in evaluating health risks. The integration of non-chemical stressors into a cumulative risk assessment framework has been largely driven by evidence of health disparities across different segments of society that may also bear a disproportionate risk from chemical exposures. This review will discuss current efforts to advance the field of cumulative risk assessment, highlighting some of the major challenges, discussed within the construct of the traditional risk assessment paradigm. Additionally, we present a summary of studies of potential interactions between social stressors and air pollutants on health as an example of current research that supports the incorporation of non-chemical stressors into risk assessment. The results from these studies, while suggestive of possible interactions, are mixed and hindered by inconsistent application of social stress indicators. Overall, while there have been significant advances, further developments across all of the risk assessment stages (i.e., hazard identification, exposure assessment, dose-response, and risk characterization) are necessary to provide a scientific basis for regulatory actions and effective community interventions, particularly when considering non-chemical stressors. A better understanding of the biological underpinnings of social stress on disease and implications for chemical-based dose-response relationships is needed. Furthermore, when considering non-chemical stressors, an appropriate metric, or series of metrics, for risk characterization is also needed. Cumulative risk assessment research will benefit from coordination of information from several different scientific disciplines, including, for example, toxicology, epidemiology, nutrition, neurotoxicology, and the social sciences.

KEYWORDS:

air pollutants; cumulative risk assessment; social stress; socioeconomic status; vulnerable populations

PMID:
21776216
PMCID:
PMC3138011
DOI:
10.3390/ijerph8062020
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
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