Forensic Applications of Environmental Health Sciences. Paul C. Chrostowski & Sarah A. Foster. CPF Associates, Inc., 7708 Takoma Ave, Takoma Park, MD 20912. In Sullivan, P.J., Agardy, F.J. & Traub, R.K. 2001, Practical Environmental Forensics, John Wiley & Sons, pp. 213-232.
A variety of scientific disciplines encompassed within the field of environmental health sciences, are well suited to forensic applications involving environmental toxicants. These disciplines include toxicology, environmental toxicology, and epidemiology. Toxicology is often considered to be the ranch of basic science that deals with poisons. Toxicology is both an experimental and observational science that focuses on the disposition and impacts of agents (chemical, physical such as radiation, or biological) on an organism. Experimental data gained from laboratory bioassays and in vitro experiments provide much of the foundation for toxicological knowledge. Environmental toxicology is concerned with agents that are of significance to humans or other organisms following environmental exposure. Pesticides, metals, radiation, solvents and plants are all examples of common environmental toxicants. Epidemiological studies are primarily observational rather than experimental in nature. The foundations of epidemiological knowledge are studies that examine the frequency of disease in human populations, often by comparing the presence of an effect in a group that has not been exposed. Important information on toxicants is also derived from clinical medical or veterinary case studies or surgical reports.
In many cases involving applications of forensic environmental health sciences, it is important to be able to determine when there was sufficient knowledge concerning an agent to conclude that it could pose a threat to human health, welfare, or the environment under appropriate conditions of exposure. The remainder of this chapter discusses methodologies for conducting historical forensic environmental health science investigations. Topics include the scientific method in the environmental health sciences; toxicology, dose-response relationships and epidemiology; methods for investigating specific substances; and case studies involving chromium and halogenated organic solvents (TCE and PCE).