Environmental Health Perspectives
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The Importance of Hormesis to Public Health

Ralph Cook1 and Edward J. Calabrese2

1RRC Consulting, LLC, Midland, Michigan, USA; 2School of Public Health and Health Sciences, Department of Environmental Health, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Massachusetts, USA

Abstract
Background: Hormesis is a specific type of nonmonotonic dose response whose occurrence has been documented across a broad range of biological models, diverse types of exposure, and a variety of outcomes. The effects that occur at various points along this curve can be interpreted as beneficial or detrimental, depending on the biological or ecologic context in which they occur.

Objective: Because hormesis appears to be a relatively common phenomenon that has not yet been incorporated into regulatory practice, the objective of this commentary is to explore some of its more obvious public health and risk assessment implications, with particular reference to issues raised recently within this journal by other authors.

Discussion: Hormesis appears to be more common than doseÐresponse curves that are currently used in the risk assessment process [e.g., linear no-threshold (LNT) ]. Although a number of mechanisms have been identified that explain many hormetic doseÐresponse relationships, better understanding of this phenomenon will likely lead to different strategies not only for the prevention and treatment of disease but also for the promotion of improved public health as it relates to both specific and more holistic health outcomes.

Conclusions: We believe that ignoring hormesis is poor policy because it ignores knowledge that could be used to improve public health.

Key words: , , , , , . Environ Health Perspect 114:1631Ð1635 (2006) . doi:10.1289/ehp.8606 available via http://dx.doi.org/ [Online 10 July 2006]


Address correspondence to E.J. Calabrese, Department of Environmental Health, School of Public Health and Health Sciences, University of Massachusetts, Morrill Science I, N344, Amherst, MA 01003 USA. Telephone: (413) 545-3164. Fax: (413) 545-4692. E-mail: edwardc@schoolph.umass.edu

This work was supported by grant FA9550-04-1-0104 from the U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research, Air Force Material Command.

The views and conclusions contained herein are those of the authors and should no be interpreted as necessarily representing the official policies or endorsement, either expressed or implied, of the Air Force Office of Scientific Research or the U.S. Government.

R.C. occasionally consults with Dow Corning on issues unrelated to environmental regulations. E.J.C. declares he has no competing financial interests.

Received 23 August 2005 ; accepted 10 July 2006.

 
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