Step 1.3 Reviewing and Evaluating Environmental Data

Introduction

When analyzing exposure pathways, available laboratory analysis of soil, water, air, and food samples must be reviewed and evaluated. This “environmental data” should describe the amount of each chemical found, the number of samples collected, when and where each sample was collected, when each sample was analyzed, and any other information needed to evaluate the quality of the data. This information is used to select the chemicals that need further evaluation and to determine what additional data are needed.

To view the two key uses of environmental data, see below.

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Selecting chemicals for further study
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Defining the nature and extent of contamination

The samples should have been gathered by a local, state, or federal environmental representative or by another qualified individual. Sample collection can be conducted either within the site’s boundaries or from adjacent areas.

If available environmental data are inadequate for evaluating exposures, the health assessor begins evaluating the data available and also

  • decides what additional data are needed
  • requests the data from the appropriate person or agency responsible for collecting it
  • evaluates additional data as available and keeps all parties informed about results

Explanations of fate and transport mechanisms of chemicals are beyond the scope of this course. Information concerning chemical fate and transport mechanisms is available in ATSDR’s toxicological profiles and in the ATSDR Public Health Assessment Guidance Manual (Revised January, 2005).

Page last reviewed: May 31, 2016