A state public health official is using e-mail to notify colleagues throughout the state about an upcoming videoconference on the relationship between environmental toxins and cancer. She receives a message that the county toxic release inventory database has just been updated with information from TRI94, an NLM database of toxic release data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Invoking a geographical information system, she looks at the pattern of releases and asks for summary statistics on the trends for the past five years. She asks to view any disease incidence that might correlate with the location of the toxic releases. Although a higher incidence of some cancers appears in the area near the toxic releases, the system indicates that the geographic pattern for the cancers existed prior to the source of the toxic releases.
The latest TRI data indicate that several additional chemicals are now being manufactured and transported in the county. Using other NLM databases, the public health officer reviews information about these chemicals, their environmental impact, and appropriate methods for dealing with people exposed to them. After sending a brief message about the chemicals to involved county HazMat teams, fire and rescue workers, and local health care providers, she updates the county database of potential health hazards with entries for the additional chemicals and specific automated pointers to detailed information on handling, cleanup, and effects of exposure.