GRASP Supports Environmental Exposure Work to Protect Community Health
ATSDR’s Geospatial Research, Analysis and Services Program (GRASP) team collaborated to design and update cartographic products generated by ATSDR’s Office of Community Health Hazard Assessment (OCHHA) site teams to determine the relationship between ethylene oxide concentrations in the air and proximity to sterilization and chemical manufacturing facilities.
Ethylene oxide, known as EtO, is a chemical used to make ethylene glycol (a chemical used to make antifreeze and polyester) that is commonly used to sterilize medical equipment and supplies in hospitals or sterilization facilities. Contact with EtO occurs from occupational or environmental exposure, primarily through the air. Health and environmental agencies have determined that exposure to high levels of EtO can cause cancer and other adverse health outcomes.
Throughout 2021, GRASP worked with ATSDR’s Office of Community Health Hazard Assessment (OCHHA) and ATSDR Region 5 to design and update cartographic products generated by OCHHA site teams. Detailed maps and analyses show the relationship between concentrations of EtO in the air and proximity to sterilization and chemical manufacturing facilities. The GRASP team added polar plots to these custom maps to show potential sources of EtO and how EtO concentrations change with wind speed and direction. The team also contributed to exploratory data analysis and helped maintain a high standard of visual design.
GRASP staff worked with OCHHA scientists to develop alternate maps and data visualizations designed for multiple audiences both internal and external to ATSDR. These alternate visualizations increased ATSDR scientists’ understanding of exposure in affected areas and enabled ATSDR scientists to effectively communicate complex exposure dynamics to communities. In some cases, different versions of the EtO maps were developed for specific groups ― such as public health administrators, scientists, local officials, and community members ― to provide the appropriate level of detail for those different audiences. The GRASP team used various data visualizations to better serve the priorities and expectations of the different audiences.
EtO work will continue in 2022 with the release of health consultations, using the analyses produced. GRASP will continue to help investigators at additional EtO sites as ATSDR’s public health assessments continue.