Novel Approaches to Exposure Assessment and Dose Response to Contaminants in Drinking Water and Food

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Virginia Tech


In the fields of water safety, food safety, and public communications, the overarching goal is to improve public health. Thus, this dissertation focuses on risk assessment and applying novel methods for exposure assessments and dose responses to contaminants in drinking water and foods. Factors that greatly impact contaminant exposures and human dose response include: population susceptibility (i.e., healthy adults or children), different routes of exposures (i.e., ingestion or inhalation), carrier matrices (i.e., water or food), and intricacies of chemical and biological mixtures. Chemical spills, such as the 2014 crude MCHM spill in Charleston, WV, revealed the complexities of both minor and major components in the chemical mixture. Slight shifts in geometric structures (isomers) can affect the fate and transport properties of the chemical mixture and as a result, the level of human exposure and dose response to each component in the chemical mixture. Odorous properties of both minor and major components can affect human inhalation exposure, especially during showering, and can be as detrimental as the ingestion route exposure and are different for healthy adults versus for children. Food contaminants, such as Shiga toxin producing Escherichia coli (STEC) in beef products, can be mitigated through a quantitative microbial risk assessment (QMRA) framework that follows a farm-to-fork model. Methods to ensure greatest microbial reduction include: employed intervention strategies at slaughter plants (i.e., water washing of beef carcass), improved cooking times and temperature methods at the consumer and retail level, and assessed minimum effective dose response modeling for different population susceptibilities. Current public communication tools, including the Drinking Water Taste-and-Odor Wheel or Consumer Confidence Reports (better known as water quality reports), should be redeveloped to uphold water safety. Furthermore, public health campaigns that uses social media strategies and informative websites can better educate the public on food contaminants. Ultimately, the objective is to prevent human illnesses due to water contaminants and foodborne pathogens and to bridge the communication gap between the consumers and the experts concerned with water and food safety.



Consumer, lexicon, E. coli, beef, dose-response, risk assessment, drinking water