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Should we share ideas or measurement data?
  1. Hans Kromhout
  1. Correspondence to Dr H Kromhout, Division of Environmental Epidemiology, Institute for Risk Assessment Sciences, Utrecht University, Utrecht, PO Box 80178, Utrecht 3508 TD, The Netherlands; h.kromhout{at}uu.nl

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The ultimate challenge of occupational exposure assessment will persist as long as we are interested in the health outcomes arising from exposure to a wide array of chemical, biological, physical and even psychosocial agents in the workplace. Regardless of whether or not we define the complex interaction between an individual human being and its environment as ‘the exposome’,1 this does not lift the heavy burden of exposure assessment from those engaged in occupational and environmental epidemiology.

In their paper on turning industry specific job-exposure matrices into job-specific modules to improve on exposure assessment in community-based studies, Behrens et al2 (see page 444) seem to suggest that by sharing exposure ideas and tools our problems will be solved. Of course, sharing tools and relevant questions derived from industry-based studies is a good idea, as is the creation of a web-based depository for these questions and tools.3 But what is gained when we ask questions in order to assess exposure? Is it possible to get the right answer from a question that is unlikely to be answered correctly? Some of the proponents of ‘the exposome’ are rather critical of this and do not think so: ‘Also, information about environmental exposures in epidemiologic studies is generally derived …

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