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Environmental Factor, October 2015

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Climate change and environmental exposures challenge announced

By Kelly Lenox

Climate Health Callenge Icon

NIEHS announced a new challenge Sept. 15 as part of the Climate and Health Innovation Challenge Series. The institute is calling on scientists and other innovators to create tools, such as data visualizations, to support decision-makers whose work may be affected by alterations in environmental exposures associated with climate change.

The goals of the NIEHS Climate Change and Environmental Exposures Challenge are to raise awareness of how environmental health risks may be worsened by climate change, and to enable decision-makers from local to national levels to take actions to protect their populations.

Winners will be chosen for data visualizations, tools, or applications in two prize categories, one at the multistate or national level, and the other for submissions addressing the local level.

Improve understanding through innovation

According to the NIEHS announcement , the impacts of climate change on existing environmental health risks, such as hazardous wastes, air pollution, algal blooms, and contaminants in food, are not well understood. At the same time, newly released data and tools, combined with existing data sets, are available for use.

“We’ve made more data available on the climate data website , and this challenge is a way to encourage users to dig into it and create practical tools for the folks who must respond to the environmental health risks presented by climate change,” said John Balbus, M.D., NIEHS senior advisor for public health.

NIEHS issued the challenge to spur the development of innovative approaches to identifying and assessing those risks. The institute hopes public health students and professionals, data and exposure scientists, software developers, and other innovators will find ways to help analyze and convey the potential risks.

Tools may support governments needing to make protective decisions, such as:

  • Siting of schools, day care centers, new housing, or critical infrastructure, such as water system intakes.
  • Design or siting of urban wastewater drainage or green infrastructure.
  • Placement of monitoring equipment or other sensors.
  • Prioritizing remediation efforts.
  • Permits or regulations that protect environmental health.

Submissions are due by Dec. 4, 2015, and the winners will be announced Jan. 12, 2016.

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