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EPA Seeking Feedback on New Tool to Address Community Environmental Issues

Aug 13 2012 Communities and Public | Comments Off on EPA Seeking Feedback on New Tool to Address Community Environmental Issues

For more information please see:

To sign up to pilot the tool click here:


Community-Focused Exposure and Risk Screening Tool (C-FERST)
The Issue

Communities and individuals are faced with exposure to many environmental stressors. They want to understand their health risks and how to prevent them, but face many obstacles. Accessing, integrating, and interpreting available data for risk ranking, prioritization, and decision-making is a challenge.


In response to this challenge, the EPA is conducting research to enhance community-based cumulative risk assessments and developing tools to communicate that research to the public.1One of these tools is C-FERST2, the Community-Focused Exposure and Risk Screening Tool. C-FERST is being developed as a one-stop-shop community mapping and assessment tool. EPA scientists are partnering with Agency community programs and other Federal Agencies to design and test C-FERST. This research responds to requests from EPA regional offices and communities as well as recommendations from the National Academy of Sciences3, National Academy of Public Administration4, and other Agency peer reviews. C-FERST is being developed under EPA’s Sustainable and Healthy Communities research program, and has been nominated for the White House Open Government Initiative.

Expected Impact of C-FERST

C-FERST is expected to increase the availability and accessibility of science for risk ranking and understanding the environmental health consequences of community decisions. It will incorporate the latest research estimating human exposures to toxic substances in the environment. In doing so, C-FERST will assist communities with the challenge of identifying and prioritizing environmental health issues and potential actions. The tool provides easy access to maps, information, and location-specific environmental data for decision-making and problem solving. C-FERST and related research that will populate the tool will be used by stakeholders to make informed, cost-effective decisions to improve public health.

Objectives and Approach

One goal of the EPA’s Sustainable and Healthy Communities research program is to develop, apply, and provide tools for advancing the science and understanding of cumulative risk. These tools include information, strategies, human exposure models, databases, sampling and analytical methods, GIS maps, and web applications. C-FERST is one of the primary research products under this program. It will link to and build upon other community-focused tools, such as ORD’s National Atlas, Urban Atlas, and Regional Vulnerability Assessment (ReVA) tools. C-FERST will provide state-of-the-science approaches for characterizing community exposures to environmental stressors that lead to cumulative human health risks.

C-FERST is being developed, piloted, and vetted in phases. C-FERST users could include federal, state, or local agencies working with community partners, community leaders and members, and individuals in the general public. C-FERST will be applied to support additional pilot communities seeking to identify and prioritize key environmental stressors. The tool will be refined and populated over time with additional information for environmental issues of concern to communities.

Status of C-FERST

Prototype versions of C-FERST have been circulated within EPA for comment by partners and potential users, and for use as a research communication and coordination tool. The C-FERST beta test version 1.0 is being pilot tested by several EPA Community Action for Renewed Environment (CARE) program communities and their EPA regional project officers. If you are interested in pilot testing C-FERST, please click here.

Future versions of C-FERST will incorporate additional features and research including: ongoing human exposure science; integration with ecological research and other community decision-support tools; enhanced maps and environmental issue profiles; capacity for more complete cumulative and health impact assessments and risk ranking; cumulative risk guidance and non-chemical stressors research; “what-if” scenario options for assessing impacts of community actions; and additional tools to support sustainable communities.

Project Leads
Valerie Zartarian, Ph.D.
Principal Investigator
(617) 918-1541
Brad Schultz
Principal Investigator
(919) 541-3881
Andrew Geller, Ph.D.
Branch Chief
(919) 541-4208

1.  V. Zartarian and B. Schultz (2010). “The EPA’s human exposure research program for assessing cumulative risk in communities.” Journal of Exposure Science and Environmental Epidemiology. 20, 351-358.

2.  V.G. Zartarian, B.D. Schultz, T.M. Barzyk, M. Smuts, D. M. Hammond, M. Medina-Vera, A.M. Geller (2011). “The EPA’s Community-Focused Exposure and Risk Screening Tool (C-FERST) and Its Potential Use for Environmental Justice Efforts”. American Journal of Public Health. 101 (S1): S286-S294.

3.  National Research Council (2009). Science and Decisions: Advancing Risk Assessment, Washington, DC: National Academy of Sciences Press, Chapter 7 and elsewhere.

4.  National Academy of Public Administration (2009). Putting Community First: A Promising Approach to Federal Collaboration for Environmental Improvement: An Evaluation of the Community Action for a Renewed Environment (CARE) Demonstration Program, Washington, DC: National Academy of Public Administration, “Recommended Action 1” and others.