The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), a federal public health agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, announced that publication of its Public Health Assessment of Kelly Air Force Base, in San Antonio, Texas, has been postponed so that the document can undergo peer review. The peer review is being done by an independent panel of scientific experts to insure the scientific validity of the modeling methods the agency used to predict past exposures to hazardous substances.
ATSDR used scientific modeling in preparing the health assessment because very little off-base sampling data was available to determine if the community may have been exposed to contaminants at levels of health concern, according to Sandy Isaacs, of ATSDR's Division of Health Assessment and Consultation.
"Modeling was used to reconstruct exposure levels," Isaacs said. "ATSDR determined that since modeling was used to reach some of the conclusions in the Public Health Assessment, it would be prudent to have scientific experts in the field of modeling verify that the modeling the agency used is technically sound before the document is
released for public comment."
While peer review is not required for public health assessments, it is an option which is available to ATSDR managers.
"We're using the peer review process because using modeling to predict past exposures is new technology for us in developing Public Health Assessments," said Dr. David Fowler, ATSDR health assessor. "But, we believe it's a valid method to predict past exposures, and the model we used has been previously validated. We hope that the peer review will help make this a better health assessment."
In the peer review process, a group of independent scientific experts review the methods used by ATSDR to develop the scientific data. Those experts review the methods and provide comments to the agency. The agency then reviews the comments, responds in writing,
and proceeds with publication of the health assessment or makes appropriate changes.
The peer review process could delay the public presentation until after the first of the year. ATSDR will continue to keep the public informed.
Community members seeking information on the procedures of the health assessment or the peer review process should contact ATSDR Health Assessor Dr. David Fowler, toll free, at 1-800-447-1544. Callers should refer to the "Kelly Air Force Base site" when asking to speak with a Health Assessor in the Division of Health Assessment and