Linking the oceans to public health: current efforts and future directions
© Kite-Powell et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. 2008 This article is published under license to BioMed Central Ltd. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
We review the major linkages between the oceans and public health, focusing on exposures and potential health effects due to anthropogenic and natural factors including: harmful algal blooms, microbes, and chemical pollutants in the oceans; consumption of seafood; and flooding events. We summarize briefly the current state of knowledge about public health effects and their economic consequences; and we discuss priorities for future research.We find that:* There are numerous connections between the oceans, human activities, and human health that result in both positive and negative exposures and health effects (risks and benefits); and the study of these connections comprises a new interdisciplinary area, "oceans and human health."* The state of present knowledge about the linkages between oceans and public health varies. Some risks, such as the acute health effects caused by toxins associated with shellfish poisoning and red tide, are relatively well understood. Other risks, such as those posed by chronic exposure to many anthropogenic chemicals, pathogens, and naturally occurring toxins in coastal waters, are less well quantified. Even where there is a good understanding of the mechanism for health effects, good epidemiological data are often lacking. Solid data on economic and social consequences of these linkages are also lacking in most cases.* The design of management measures to address these risks must take into account the complexities of human response to warnings and other guidance, and the economic tradeoffs among different risks and benefits. Future research in oceans and human health to address public health risks associated with marine pathogens and toxins, and with marine dimensions of global change, should include epidemiological, behavioral, and economic components to ensure that resulting management measures incorporate effective economic and risk/benefit tradeoffs.
Funding was provided in part by the NSF-NIEHS Oceans Centers at Woods Hole, University of Hawaii, University of Miami, and University of Washington, and the NOAA Oceans and Human Health Initiative Centers of Excellent in Charleston, Seattle and Milwaukee, the National Center for Environmental Health (NCEH) of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the WHOI Marine Policy Center. Grant numbers are: NIEHS P50 ES012742 and NSF OCE-043072 (HLKP, RJG, PH); NSF OCE-0432368 and NIEHS P50 ES12736 (LEF); NIEHS P50 ES012762 and NSF OCE-0434087 (EMF, AT, LRY); NSF OCE04-32479 and NIEHS P50 ES012740 (BAW)
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Vol. 7 Suppl 2, article S6