The importance of the biological impact of exposure to the concept of the exposome

Kristine K. Dennis, Scott S. Auerbach, David M. Balshaw, Yuxia Cui, Margaret Daniele Fallin, Martyn T. Smith, Avrum Spira, Susan Sumner, Gary W. Miller

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debatepeer-review


Background: The term “exposome” was originally coined in 2005 and defined as the totality of exposures throughout the lifetime. The exposome provides an excellent scientific framework for studying human health and disease. Recently, it has been suggested that how exposures affect our biology and how our bodies respond to such exposures should be part of the exposome. Objectives: The authors describe the biological impact of the exposome and outline many of the targets and processes that can be assessed as part of a comprehensive analysis of the exposome. Discussion: The processes that occur downstream from the initial interactions with exogenous and endogenous compounds determine the biological impact of exposures. If the effects are not considered in the same context as the exposures, it will be difficult to determine cause and effect. The exposome and biology are interactive—changes in biology due to the environment change one’s vulnerability to subsequent exposures. Additionally, highly resilient individuals are able to withstand environmental exposures with minimal effects to their health. We expect that the vast majority of exposures are transient, and chemicals underlying exposures that occurred weeks, months, or years ago are long gone from the body. However, these past chemical exposures often leave molecular fingerprints that may be able to provide information on these past exposures. Conclusions: Through linking exposures to specific biological responses, exposome research could serve to improve understanding of the mechanistic connections between exposures and health to help mitigate adverse health outcomes across the lifespan.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1504-1510
Number of pages7
JournalEnvironmental health perspectives
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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