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The Technical Workshop on Optimizing the Design and Interpretation of Epidemiologic Studies for Assessing Neurodevelopmental Effects from in Utero Chemical Exposure

Cox, Christopher

ISEE/ISEA 2006 Conference Abstracts Supplement: Symposium Abstracts: Abstracts

Department of Epidemiology, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health


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Although many epidemiologic studies of children's environmental health have been completed, and more are being planned, a comprehensive examination of the methodologies commonly used in past studies has not been conducted. Such an examination could: assess the strengths and limitations of the methodological approaches used to date; consider scientific and technical advances in relevant methodologies; and help to elucidate optimal approaches to estimating exposure, identifying, and measuring neurodevelopmental effects and interpreting epidemiologic data. In short, such an examination could serve to identify the key methodological factors that ultimately determine the value and strength of a study.

The Technical Workshop on Optimizing the Design and Interpretation of Epidemiologic Studies for Assessing Neurodevelopmental Effects from In Utero Chemical Exposure provided a forum for examining these methodologies. An expert panel of researchers was selected by the steering committee for the workshop and asked to provide written responses to a series of questions in advance of the workshop itself. The workshop was held on September 14, 2005, in conjunction with the 22nd International Neurotoxicology Conference in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina. The objective of the workshop was to begin to develop a scientific consensus on the key principles and considerations for optimizing the design and interpretation of epidemiologic studies of in utero exposure to chemicals and subsequent neurodevelopmental effects. The goal of the workshop was to provide not only useful input for the design of future investigations, but also metrics that can be used to judge the adequacy of reported studies. Workshop deliberations included only scientific methodological issues (ie, the development of “best practices” for future study design, conduct, reporting, and interpretation); the workshop did not include an evaluation of the findings or conclusions from previous epidemiologic studies of environmental health. A summary of the daylong discussions will be published in a special issue of NeuroToxicology.

This presentation reviews the recommendations of the workshop with emphasis on the measurement of exposure. An illustration will be provided by a study of the developmental effects of prenatal exposure to methylmercury from fish consumption, The Seychelles Child Development Study, with which the presenter has been affiliated for many years.

© 2006 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.