Paper No. 217-5
Presentation Time: 2:50 PM
THE ROLE OF MEDICAL GEOLOGY IN RISK ASSESSMENT, MANAGEMENT AND COMMUNICATION FOR PUBLIC POLICY
Medical Geology is the quintessential multidisciplinary discipline. It provides a framework for integrating information drawn from the Geological and Medical sciences. It illustrates the different paradigms and methods of these sciences and more importantly provides an opportunity to address the uncertainties inherent in each magisterium in a comprehensive analysis. The form of a complete Medical Geology analysis can be related to well-accepted principles in Risk Assessment and Risk Management. In the realm of Risk Assessment, Medical Geologists must deal with the extrapolations that underlie both the Medical and Geological Sciences. Predictions of environmental transport of contaminants that lead to exposures of populations must rely on inferences drawn from simple laboratory studies and imprecise field studies. Similarly, assessments of potential health effects often rely on in vitro or in vivo studies of simple systems or epidemiological studies of complex populations. The uncertainties that limit the precision of risk estimates drawn in each realm must be considered in developing a useful Risk Management strategy. Because effective Risk Management must consider the costs, benefits and unintended consequences of a proposed intervention, the integrative nature of Medical Geology provides a useful framework for policy makers dealing with the environmental and public health problems related to natural materials.
To be relevant to science policy and to potential funding sources, the Medical Geology community must demonstrate an important role in Risk Communication. Although a plethora of excellent Medical Geology textbooks and articles books have appeared in the last 2 decades, few have emphasized this integrative role and its relevance to policy decisions. A proposed third edition of the book Essentials of Medical Geology is being designed to meet this need and members of the Medical Geology community are invited to participate in this project. This talk will illustrate these ideas by discussing uncertainties in the assessment and management of health risks related to the occurrence of arsenic and uranium in the environment and some problems in the associated risk communication.