Environmental health community mourns loss of Paul Lioy
By Kelly Lenox
Many in the environmental health community are mourning the July 8 passing of Paul Lioy, M.D., an internationally respected exposure scientist. Lioy was director of exposure science and deputy director of government relations at the Rutgers University Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Institute, which is funded in part by NIEHS.
Champion for exposure science
As the field of exposure science developed, Lioy became a champion of the study of the exposome, which is the total lifetime exposure to substances both from the environment and from within the body. He served as vice chair of the National Research Council Committee on Human and Environmental Exposure Science in the 21st Century and was instrumental in developing its 2012 report, “Exposure Science in the 21st Century: A Vision and a Strategy.”
“He understood the future, and his work on that report was important to moving the field forward,” said Gwen Collman, Ph.D., director of the NIEHS Division of Extramural Research and Training.
Working on the cutting edge characterized much of Lioy’s career. He was one of the founders of the International Society for Exposure Analysis, now the International Society for Exposure Science, and served as its president from 1993 to 1994. He also helped start the society’s journal, now called Journal of Exposure Science and Environmental Epidemiology. Lioy was deputy editor of the journal at the time of his death.
An especially notable achievement was his recognition of the risk posed by the dust from the September 11 World Trade Center attacks in New York. Lioy quickly undertook analysis of the dust, to understand the health risks faced by emergency workers and residents. He documented the experience in his critically acclaimed book, “Dust: The Inside Story of Its Role in the September 11th Aftermath” (review).
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Long history with NIEHS
Over the course of his career, Lioy’s involvement with NIEHS took many forms, from grantee researcher and lecturer to associate editor for the NIEHS journal Environmental Health Perspectives (EHP), beginning in 2003. He published 35 papers in EHP, including four on his World Trade Center dust exposure research, as well as a landmark editorial advocating a comprehensive approach to studying the exposome, co-authored with Stephen Rappaport, Ph.D.
His impact was recognized by David Balshaw, Ph.D., head of the NIEHS Exposure, Response and Technology Branch. “Paul had a unique gift for getting past the exposome as buzzword science,” Balshaw said. “He understood the importance of how we integrate information on exposures across a range of variables, from external contact to internal dose and biological response.”
Bill Suk, Ph.D., director of the Superfund Research Program at NIEHS, expressed the shock felt by many upon hearing the news of Lioy’s death. Suk said he first got to know Lioy in 1990, when they worked together to plan a workshop on exposure assessment.
“Since then, we continued to interact as colleagues and broke bread at various meetings, but especially at the Collegium Ramazzini.” The Collegium Ramazzini is an international academy of experts in occupational and environmental health. Suk also spoke at a 2008 symposium held in Lioy’s honor when he received the Fifth Annual Distinguished Alumni Award from the Rutgers University Graduate School (see story).