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Topic Title: How do public health researchers compare risks associated with alternative chemicals or materials?
Topic Summary: Question posed to Oladele Ogunseitan.
Created On: 10/4/2007 10:13 AM

 10/4/2007 10:13 AM

Todd Osman

Posts: 219
Joined: 2/2/2007

Question posed by the Moderator to Oladele Ogunseitan: How do public health researchers compare risks associated with alternative chemicals or materials when their health effects are very different?

Dr. Ogunseitan responded: This is the multimillion dollar question for public health research. How do you compare cancer to a headache or to kidney failure or I.Q. test differences? It is in a way by research we have something we call a “composite measure of bodily disease.” And this is subjective in a way because it depends on our ability to cope with whatever health effect you have and that depends on your economic resources. So the method that public health researchers use is to look at the effects on mortality, which is early death, and add this in a way to the effect of morbidity, which is an impact on being sick and not being able to go to work. Ultimately, we try to convert everything to dollars, and that’s why I said the multimillion dollar question. There was a recent article, and I think it was a very influential approach in getting the U.S. to move away from leaded gasoline. It’s to quantify the amount of money that the U.S. spends on special education for mild mental retardation and special education. How much money we spend on managing high blood pressure, kidney failure, anemia, and if you can associate lead exposure to some of these and you could come up with a dollar amount and we have done the same thing for cancer. So you can convert everything to dollars you actually begin to have a uniform unit to tell policy makers, “Look, this is how much it would save if we were able to reduce the amount of lead that the public is exposed to, or the amount of antimony or zinc or copper.” So that’s one way to do it. This is having an effect, this method of converting to dollars is having worldwide effect because in many countries we don’t have that much data and we can tell them that for every one microgram of particulate of lead in the blood that the citizens have this is how much it is costing your national project. And countries understand that.

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