Risk Assessment and Epidemiologic Evidence in Environmental Health Science

By Goldstein, Bernard D. | Environmental Health Perspectives, November 2006 | Go to article overview

Risk Assessment and Epidemiologic Evidence in Environmental Health Science


Goldstein, Bernard D., Environmental Health Perspectives


There appears to be a serious conceptual error about the role of the various environmental health sciences in Kundi's otherwise interesting and informative commentary on "Causality and the Interpretation of Epidemiologic Evidence" (Kundi 2006). This error is exemplified in his next-to-last paragraph:

  Most risk assessment procedures demand that for chronic diseases such
  as cancer there must be epidemiologic evidence before an extrinsic
  agent can be ascribed a hazardous potential for human health.

In fact, it is solely toxicologic evidence that is used for the overwhelming majority of agents to which a "hazardous potential for human health" is ascribed. I am unaware of any risk assessment process that requires epidemiology to recognize hazardous potential for human health.

Perhaps Kundi (2006) meant that there must be epidemiologic evidence for a chemical to achieve the level of a known or proven cause of a hazard to human health. However, the misunderstanding in the above quote permeates his commentary.

As Kundi (2006) correctly recognized, it is better to prevent the introduction or use of agents that would cause adverse effects eventually identifiable in an epidemiologic study.

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