Evaluating Public Health Impacts From Environmental Releases
At New York City’s World Trade Center (WTC) disaster site, ERG critically evaluated health-based benchmark values used to screen indoor air and dust contaminant levels and documented the process for selecting contaminants of possible concern. The WTC evaluations, and hundreds of others dating back to 1995, have been conducted under a series of contracts with the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). The evaluations have encompassed a broad spectrum of environmental and public health issues, ranging from vapor intrusion to indoor air quality to consumption of contaminated biota. Our work has entailed synthesizing environmental data and site-specific exposure data, researching toxicity endpoints for exposure doses, and examining relevant disease morbidity data to draw public health conclusions.
Improving Human Exposure Assessments for Public Health Decision-Making
ERG has examined human exposure pathways across multiple environmental settings and media. This work has involved evaluating environmental transport mechanisms both qualitatively and quantitatively, characterizing the size and demographics of exposed populations, examining viable exposure routes, and quantifying exposure concentrations. Because sampling data from environmental investigations don’t always provide sufficient information to evaluate exposure to environmental contaminants at points of human contact (e.g., in neighborhoods), ERG has designed and implemented targeted sampling programs to better quantify community exposures. For example, for ATSDR, ERG measured indoor and outdoor air concentrations of hydrogen sulfide in four separate summertime exposure investigations to evaluate short- and long-term air quality impacts from different types of emission sources, including agricultural operations; food manufacturing facilities; landfills; and oil and gas production, processing, and refining. With exposure concentration data in hand, our clients are better equipped to evaluate potential public health risks.
Compiling Toxicity Data for National Priority Threat Agents
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA's) National Homeland Security Research Center (NHSRC) asked ERG to compile toxicity data for priority threat agents in support of NHSRC's risk assessment activities. ERG compiled high-quality, transparent, defensible chemical properties and fate/transport information, acute and chronic toxicity documentation, and cancer and non-cancer risk assessment methodologies for nearly 100 threat agents (chemical and radiological). ERG developed a rigid set of protocols for searching, identifying, extracting, and recording pertinent data from the scientific literature. ERG searched the primary and secondary literature (national and international) for toxicity benchmarks and other pertinent dose-response data, and compiled information in a comprehensive project database, including descriptors on data quality and suitability of data for benchmark dose modeling. In addition, ERG researched extrapolation methods for deriving acute and chronic toxicity values in the absence of robust toxicity databases.
Ensuring Food Safety Using Risk Assessment Models
Tomatoes and leafy green vegetables have been associated with recurring microbial disease outbreaks in the United States. These outbreaks have motivated the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to better understand the pre-harvest, harvest, and post-harvest factors that influence the risk of contaminated produce. Under contract to the FDA, ERG developed quantitative risk assessment models to help identify interventions that could substantially reduce the incidence of disease outbreaks associated with these vegetables. The interventions addressed by the models encompass actions affecting the harvesting, cooling, packing, and processing stages of production. The models are based on current agricultural practices at each stage of production and predicated on the land use characteristics in the regions where the produce is grown in the United States.
Analyzing Costs/Benefits of Unique Medical Device Identification (UDI) Systems
UDI systems hold great promise for improving patient safety, reducing medical errors, and facilitating device recalls. ERG assisted the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in evaluating the costs for manufacturers to implement lot-specific or serialized numbering of their medical devices and the benefits to hospitals of using UDI systems. The first part of the analysis focused on hospital recall management systems and possible deficiencies in identifying and recovering medical devices that have been recalled. The study also assessed hospital infrastructure requirements for implementing UDI systems and capturing the information for inclusion in patient records. Finally, the study investigated the interplay of bedside barcoding systems for pharmaceutical administration safety with the capture of UDI from medical device use.