High throughput heuristics for prioritizing human exposure to environmental chemicals

Environ Sci Technol. 2014 Nov 4;48(21):12760-7. doi: 10.1021/es503583j. Epub 2014 Oct 24.


The risk posed to human health by any of the thousands of untested anthropogenic chemicals in our environment is a function of both the hazard presented by the chemical and the extent of exposure. However, many chemicals lack estimates of exposure intake, limiting the understanding of health risks. We aim to develop a rapid heuristic method to determine potential human exposure to chemicals for application to the thousands of chemicals with little or no exposure data. We used Bayesian methodology to infer ranges of exposure consistent with biomarkers identified in urine samples from the U.S. population by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). We performed linear regression on inferred exposure for demographic subsets of NHANES demarked by age, gender, and weight using chemical descriptors and use information from multiple databases and structure-based calculators. Five descriptors are capable of explaining roughly 50% of the variability in geometric means across 106 NHANES chemicals for all the demographic groups, including children aged 6-11. We use these descriptors to estimate human exposure to 7968 chemicals, the majority of which have no other quantitative exposure prediction. For thousands of chemicals with no other information, this approach allows forecasting of average exposure intake of environmental chemicals.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Bayes Theorem
  • Biomarkers / urine
  • Child
  • Databases, Factual
  • Environmental Exposure / analysis*
  • Environmental Pollutants / analysis*
  • Environmental Pollutants / chemistry
  • Heuristics*
  • Humans
  • Linear Models
  • Nutrition Surveys
  • United States


  • Biomarkers
  • Environmental Pollutants