The complexities of air pollution regulation: the need for an integrated research and regulatory perspective.
The Clean Air Act mandates the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to periodically reassess existing and new science that underlie the regulation of major ambient pollutants -- particulate matter (PM) and tropospheric ozone being most notable. While toxic effects have been ascribed individually to these and other pollutants in the air, it is clear that mixtures of these contaminants have the potential to interact and thereby influence their overall toxic outcomes. It follows that a more comprehensive assessment of the potential health effects of the air pollution complex might better protect human health; however, traditional regulatory drivers and funding constraints have impeded progress to such a goal. Despite difficulties in empirically conducting studies of complex mixtures of air pollutants and acquiring relevant exposure data, there remains a need to develop integrated, interdisciplinary research and analytical strategies to provide more comprehensive (and relevant) assessments of associated health outcomes and risks. The research and assessment communities are endeavoring to dissect this complexity using varied approaches Here we present five interdisciplinary perspectives of this evolving line of thought among researchers and those who use such data in assessment: (1) analyses that coordinate air quality-health analyses utilizing representative polluted U.S. air sheds to apportion source and component-specific health risks; (2) novel approaches to characterize air quality in terms of emission sources and how emission reduction strategies might effectively impact pollutant levels; (3) insights from present-day studies of effects of single ambient pollutants in animal and controlled clinical toxicology studies and how these are evolving to address air pollution; (4) refinements in epidemiologic health assessments that take advantage of the complexities of existent air quality conditions; and (5) new approaches to integrative analyses to establish the criteria for regulation of PM and other criteria pollutants. As these examples illustrate, implementing multidisciplined and integrative strategies offer the promise of more realistic and relevant science, greater reductions in uncertainty, and improved overall air pollution assessment. The regulatory mandate may lag behind the science, but real gains both in public health benefit and the science to dissect complex problems will result.
Nadadur, SS; Miller, CA; Hopke, PK; Gordon, T; Vedal, S; Vandenberg, JJ; Costa, DL
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