Integrated Science Assessment

HERO: Easier Way to Retrieve Information

By Pawlos Girmay

I recently had an opportunity to speak with Gerry Gurevich, the technical lead for EPA’s Health and Environmental Research Online—or HERO—database, which serves as a central location for the scientific information EPA researchers use to develop environmental and health assessments. Gerry explained some of the benefits of the HERO database and the changes that will occur over the coming months.

For starters, HERO has greatly enhanced transparency by providing links to the references and abstracts of  the scientific literature used in two important types of Agency assessments:  (1) Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) assessments, which evaluate information on the potential health effects that may result from exposure to environmental contaminants, and (2) Integrated Science Assessments (ISAs), reports that summarize the science related to the health and ecological effects caused by the six criteria air pollutants for which EPA develops National Ambient Air Quality Standards.

With approximately 725,000 references, there is an abundance of information. If you need a scientific reference from an ISA or IRIS assessment, HERO will have it!

While HERO is already a terrific resource, EPA is still committed to making changes to improve the database. New versions of HERO are being pushed out monthly to improve performance. EPA will continue to provide updates as needed to make HERO a beneficial tool for anyone seeking scientific information about EPA’s assessment work.

Obviously, HERO could not function without the hard work and dedication of the staff that have made the database what it is today. Joining Gerry Gurevich, who has been working with HERO for the past four years, is “TeamHERO” – a group of librarians and data specialists.

During my time in the EPA’s National Center for Environmental Assessment, I found HERO to be an extremely valuable tool to search for scientific information. As part of the Open Government Directive to conduct business with transparency, participation, and collaboration, HERO helps the public participate in EPA’s work by providing information about the data behind health assessments that inform decisions to protect public health.

With many new advances in technology taking place, I am sure HERO will continue to expand and enhance stakeholder’s experiences.  You can explore it yourself here: Health and Environmental Research Online.

About the Author: Pawlos Girmay is a student intern in EPA’s National Center for Environmental Assessment. He received his undergraduate degree from Howard University and his Masters of Science in Health Communications degree from Boston University.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

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Science Does Truly Matter

By: Dahnish Shams

As an EPA summer intern, I got a firsthand look at how essential science is to the operations of the Agency and of its immense importance to us all.

Stationed at EPA’s National Center for Environmental Assessment, I was quickly introduced to some of the science products that support so much of what EPA does to protect human health and the environment. Chemical assessments in EPA’s Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) Program and Integrated Science Assessments (ISAs) for the six criteria air pollutants (ozone, particulate matter, carbon monoxide, sulfur oxides, nitrogen oxides, and lead) inform the public and decision makers of the potential hazards threatening public health and the environment. These scientific products provide the basis for many of the rules the agency generates.

Yet, when you look beyond the products and their implications, what I have learned during my 10-week internship is that so much of the Agency’s work is truly defined by individuals, such as the scientists, communications staff, and support specialists that work as a team to conduct assessments. I saw that despite numerous obstacles, there is continued determination by this team of professionals to consistently devise strategies and methods to overcome the challenges that naturally arise as chemicals and humans interact in increasingly complex ways with the environment.

So as I conclude my internship, this blog post is meant to acknowledge the passion, determination, and teamwork exemplified by the people that I have met at the Agency this summer. These qualities are reflected through the continued efforts to improve IRIS chemical assessments, through climate assessments of ecosystems from across the country, and by the continual production of high quality ISAs – all of which provide a critical part of the scientific foundation for EPA’s decisions to protect human health and the environment.

If there is one message that I will take away from the Agency this summer, and one that I hope you gather from this post, is that I am proud to have been associated with EPA, and with the National Center for Environmental Assessment and the people that work here in particular. Though there are challenges in assessing the environment in the 21st century, they showed me through their passion, dedication, and teamwork that producing high quality science does truly matter.

About the Author: Dahnish Shams was a summer intern with EPA’s National Center for Environmental Assessment.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

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Science Matters: Highlighting the Impact of EPA Research

By Aaron Ferster

Sunset on the Outer Banks.

What would you do with extra time?

What would you do with an extra five months? I’d want to spend it with my family, preferably hiking some scenic mountain section of the Appalachian Trail, or maybe the Columbia River Gorge. Any trail would do, really. A couple of weeks together on the Outer Banks watching the surf roll in would be nice, too. And a bevy of long, leisurely bike rides would be a must.

Nothing beats the gift of time, and five months worth is a generous one at that.

Five months is the amount of time added to our life spans, according to an EPA-supported study examining the benefits of clean air programs. The foundation of these programs is Agency research such as EPA integrated science assessments, which advances the understanding between air pollution exposure and its effects on human health.

In addition to longer life spans, the positive impact of EPA research can also be seen across the nation in cleaner air and water, healthier communities, and offices, schools, public spaces, and airplanes free from secondhand tobacco smoke.

Examples of such impacts are the focus of our latest newsletter, EPA Science Matters.

In the newsletter story featuring EPA’s landmark health assessment on the dangers of secondhand tobacco smoke, President of the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids Matthew L. Myers remarks, “The impact has been healthier kids, healthier parents, healthier workers, and an awareness that the science is clear: if you smoke around kids and other non-smokers, you threaten and endanger their health.”

Myers is but one of the many people who help tell the story of the impact of EPA research. Featured examples include EPA’s integrated science assessments, “green” infrastructure, community support for achieving cleaner air, enhancing emergency response capabilities in the event of a terrorist attack using anthrax, and several others.

I invite you to check out the newsletter to learn more. Although I’ve been working on the issue myself for the past couple of weeks, I plan to read it again in my spare time. Perhaps between hikes, or while enjoying an afternoon on the Outer Banks.

About the Author: When not planning his next vacation, Aaron Ferster works as the senior science writer-editor in EPA’s Office of Research and Development.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

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