Academic journal article Environmental Health Perspectives

Indicators of Ocean Health and Human Health: Developing a Research and Monitoring Framework. (Commentary)

Academic journal article Environmental Health Perspectives

Indicators of Ocean Health and Human Health: Developing a Research and Monitoring Framework. (Commentary)

Article excerpt

We need to critically assess the present quality of the marine ecosystem, especially the connection between ecosystem change and threats to human health. In this article we review the current state of indicators to link changes in marine organisms with eventual effects to human health, identify research opportunities in the use of indicators of ocean and human health, and discuss how to establish collaborations between national and international governmental and private sector groups. We present a synthesis of the present state of understanding of the connection between ocean health and human health, a discussion of areas where resources are required, and a discussion of critical research needs and a template for future work in this field. To understand fully the interactions between ocean health and human health, programs should be organized around a "models-based" approach focusing on critical themes and attributes of marine environmental and public health risks. Given the extent and complex nature of ocean and human health issues, a program networking across geographic and disciplinary boundaries is essential. The overall goal of this approach would be the early detection of potential marine-based contaminants, the protection of marine ecosystems, the prevention of associated human illness, and by implication, the development of products to enhance human well-being. The tight connection between research and monitoring is essential to develop such an indicator-based effort. Key words: biologic effects, biomarkers, contamination, human health, indicators, ocean health. Environ Health Perspect 110:839-845 (2002). [Online 17 July 2002]

http://ehpnet1.niehs.nih.gov/docs/2002/110p839-845knap/abstract.html

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The interactions between humans and the ocean are significant and necessitate more comprehensive study on an international scale. The world's oceans provide great health benefits to humans, ranging from food and nutritional resources, to recreational opportunities, to new treatments for disease. The rising human population and trends in migration to the world's coastal zones continue to increase pressure on this ocean/land interface. Coastal degradation, climate variability, and increased industrialization may pose human health risks from mobilization and transport of anthropogenically derived and natural toxic agents in the environment (Harvell et al. 1999). A National Research Council report on the interactions between ocean and public health, From Monsoons to Microbes: Understanding the Ocean's Role in Human Health, has recently been published (National Research Council 1999). International efforts to focus on ocean health and human health issues have been made by the Health of the Ocean panel of the Global Ocean Observing System (UNESCO 1996) as well as a meeting held in Bermuda, 15-19 November 1999 (Knap 2000). These programs have built on the National Research Council report but have focused specifically on indicators of the effects of anthropogenic agents as well as natural toxins, and on questions targeting the development of biologic markers linking exposure with human and ecologic health end points.

For our purposes, the term "ocean" is all encompassing, ranging from brackish to open ocean conditions. We have defined ocean health in the broadest sense as adopted from the Health of the Ocean panel of UNESCO (1996) as a "reflection of the condition of the marine environment from the perspective of adverse effects caused by anthropogenic activities, in particular habitat destruction, changed sedimentation rates and the mobilization of contaminants" (p. 3). Such conditions refer to the contemporary state of the ocean, prevailing trends, and the prognosis for improvement or deterioration in its quality. Most contamination is concentrated in the coastal zone from a variety of sources; however, long-range transport can deliver contaminants great distances (Knap 1990) and can affect the health of remote human populations (Dewailly et al. …

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