Health and environment information systems for exposure and disease mapping, and risk assessment

Environ Health Perspect. 2004 Jun;112(9):995-7. doi: 10.1289/ehp.6736.


A large number of chemicals are used on a regular basis in modern society. Thousands of new chemicals are added each year, many of which may have toxic properties constituting potential health hazards. Rapid assessment of the risk associated with the use of these chemicals is therefore essential to protect people from exposure to potentially harmful substances. Exposures to chemicals (and physical agents) are typically unevenly distributed geographically as well as temporally. Disease occurrence also shows geographically varying patterns. Geographic information systems (GIS) may be used to produce maps of exposure and/or disease to reveal spatial patterns. Exposure mapping using advanced GIS modeling may enhance exposure assessment in environmental epidemiology studies. Disease maps can be valuable tools in risk assessment to explore changes in disease patterns potentially associated with changes in environmental exposures. Spatial variations in risk and trends related to distance from pollution sources may be studied using software tools such as the Rapid Inquiry Facility, developed by the U.K. Small Area Health Statistics Unit and enhanced in the European Health and Environment Information System project, for an initial quick evaluation of any potential health hazards associated with an environmental pollutant.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Disease Outbreaks*
  • Environmental Exposure*
  • Environmental Pollutants / poisoning*
  • Europe
  • Geographic Information Systems*
  • Humans
  • Information Systems
  • Risk Assessment
  • Small-Area Analysis*


  • Environmental Pollutants