Providing the missing link: the exposure science ontology ExO

Environ Sci Technol. 2012 Mar 20;46(6):3046-53. doi: 10.1021/es2033857. Epub 2012 Mar 12.


Environmental health information resources lack exposure data required to translate molecular insights, elucidate environmental contributions to diseases, and assess human health and ecological risks. We report development of an Exposure Ontology, ExO, designed to address this information gap by facilitating centralization and integration of exposure data. Major concepts were defined and the ontology drafted and evaluated by a working group of exposure scientists and other ontology and database experts. The resulting major concepts forming the basis for the ontology are "exposure stressor", "exposure receptor", "exposure event", and "exposure outcome". Although design of the first version of ExO focused on human exposure to chemicals, we anticipate expansion by the scientific community to address exposures of human and ecological receptors to the full suite of environmental stressors. Like other widely used ontologies, ExO is intended to link exposure science and diverse environmental health disciplines including toxicology, epidemiology, disease surveillance, and epigenetics.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Environmental Exposure / analysis*
  • Environmental Health
  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Humans
  • Models, Theoretical*


  • Environmental Pollutants