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EPA ExpoBox

Exposure Assessment Tools by Lifestages and Populations - General Population


General Population

The Exposure Factors Handbook: 2011 Edition (U.S. EPA, 2011), also referred to as the "Handbook", defines general population as "the total of individuals inhabiting an area or making up a whole group." An assessment of the general population may be appropriate for evaluating exposure to contaminants that are widely distributed in a particular medium.

The Handbook contains information that can be used to enumerate and characterize potential exposure to the general population. For example, information on the percentages of the population consuming various types of foods or engaging in certain types of activities is provided. In many cases, data that are appropriate for evaluating the general population are based on national survey data (e.g., National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), National Human Activity Pattern Survey, USDA’s Continuing Survey of Food Intake by Individuals [CSFII] conducted in 1994−1996 and 1998).

National-level assessments may be performed when EPA is setting media standards or guidelines for contaminants to which the general population may be exposed (e.g., Maximum Contaminant Levels [MCLs], National Ambient Air Quality Standards, Ambient Water Quality Criteria [AWQC], Superfund soil-screening-levels).

Below are some examples of tools that can be used to characterize and enumerate populations when conducting assessments of the general population. A number of entries in the table are links to data provided by the U.S. Census Bureau including information on housing and school enrollment along with other demographic, socio-economic, and housing characteristics. Additional tools related to exposure media and routes of exposure that are relevant to the general population (or other population groups) are described in the Media and Routes Tool Sets.

While some scenarios are developed to estimate general population exposures, scenarios can be refined to focus on specific population segments such as residential consumer, occupational worker, and other susceptible or highly-exposed population groups. The remainder of this Tool Set provides tools for conducting these more refined assessments.

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