Completing the Link between Exposure Science and Toxicology for Improved Environmental Health Decision Making: The Aggregate Exposure Pathway Framework

Environ Sci Technol. 2016 May 3;50(9):4579-86. doi: 10.1021/acs.est.5b05311. Epub 2016 Feb 10.


Driven by major scientific advances in analytical methods, biomonitoring, computation, and a newly articulated vision for a greater impact in public health, the field of exposure science is undergoing a rapid transition from a field of observation to a field of prediction. Deployment of an organizational and predictive framework for exposure science analogous to the "systems approaches" used in the biological sciences is a necessary step in this evolution. Here we propose the aggregate exposure pathway (AEP) concept as the natural and complementary companion in the exposure sciences to the adverse outcome pathway (AOP) concept in the toxicological sciences. Aggregate exposure pathways offer an intuitive framework to organize exposure data within individual units of prediction common to the field, setting the stage for exposure forecasting. Looking farther ahead, we envision direct linkages between aggregate exposure pathways and adverse outcome pathways, completing the source to outcome continuum for more meaningful integration of exposure assessment and hazard identification. Together, the two frameworks form and inform a decision-making framework with the flexibility for risk-based, hazard-based, or exposure-based decision making.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Decision Making
  • Environmental Exposure
  • Environmental Health*
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Humans
  • Risk Assessment*
  • Science
  • Toxicology