Exposure assessment is where theoretical science, medicine, and applied science, merge to define what the possible health effects of a chemical product may be for human beings. For this subject, as for every area of modern life, complexity increases the more we learn.
Occupational health and safety professionals are interested in workplace exposures, but exposure to chemicals happens constantly, everywhere. Our lifestyle choices and often our environment literally bathes us in chemicals. We encounter chemical products at work, at home depending on our choices as consumers, and in the environment depending on everyone else's choices as consumers.
Much of what is done as part of exposure assessment is an approximation. Figuring out exactly, to the smallest degree, which chemicals may have affected any one person enough to harm their health can be complicated even if there's only one chemical, we know what it is, and where to go to measure it. It's an incredibly complex process to pinpoint sources, amounts and how these amounts may change a person's health. The more we have learned about biological mechanisms of action and toxicology, the harder it has become to identify the source of biological effects. What combination of workplace, environment, and lifestyle choices caused the exposures? How do we prove the health effect resulted from any or all of them? Can we separate workplace exposures from non-workplace exposures?
The current state of the EOSH profession includes identifying preventive measures for non-workrelated events that can lead to injuries or illnesses. Wellness programs, safety and health awareness training for smoking, driving, biking, boating, and protecting children against chemical stressors, are all part of keeping people healthy and productive. An exposure assessment provides critical evidence to answer the question, "What caused the health effect?"