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Environmental epidemiology is concerned with the ways in which the human environment affects the occurrence of health and disease. The territory encompassed is vast, potentially including every kind of health outcome and virtually all exposures with the arguable exception of those that are entirely genetic or behavioural. Either in spite of the field's breadth or because of it, questions about how the environment affects health are usually approached in a simplified way by considering pairwise associations between single exposures and single diseases. The approach is similar to the way engineers address complex problems by breaking them down into component parts that can be solved more easily. Essentially the same methodology has been used since the early days of epidemiological science, and there is no doubt it has facilitated successful resolution of important public health problems, such as the reduction of infectious disease mortality through sanitary measures taken in the 19th Century.1
Nevertheless, considering …
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