History and Origin

Origins of the International Society for Environmental Epidemiology

The International Society for Environmental Epidemiology (ISEE) originated in 1987 when approximately 50 epidemiologists met in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA. Epidemiologists interested in environmental epidemiology and experts in exposure assessment were invited to attend the meeting to discuss the need for an international scientific organization devoted to the field of environmental epidemiology and exposure assessment. A consensus emerged supporting the need for a newly formed society. Facilitated by Dr. Raymond Neutra of the State of California Department of Health Services in the USA, the group subsequently formed a Steering Committee and developed a statement of purpose. A questionnaire was designed to recruit charter members and to elicit their feedback on membership criteria and future meeting programs. One hundred forty-nine individuals completed questionnaires and became charter members of the Society.

The first scientific conference for the ISEE was held in September 1989 at the Brookhaven National Laboratory, New York, USA at the invitation of Dr. Leonard Hamilton. Meeting participants presented papers in three primary areas: 1) the role of epidemiology in assessing current and future technologies for disinfection of drinking water; 2) community air pollution and 3) cancer risks in the vicinity of nuclear installations. The meeting's proceedings were published as a special issue of the Science of the Total Environment, with support in part by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Dr. John Goldsmith, from the Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Israel, wrote the Preface for the special issue, which included the Resolution on the purpose of the Society. The Resolution stated:

"Whereas environmental policy-making has been hampered by the scarcity or poor comprehension of good epidemiological studies of effects of environmental exposures on human populations, and

Whereas environmental epidemiology requires the cooperation of epidemiologists, statisticians, toxicologists and those professionally qualified to estimate environmental exposure, and

Whereas no existing scientific professional organization is dedicated to stimulating the international communication among these groups and thereby to promote the effectiveness of environmental epidemiology, and

Whereas no existing organization provides a forum to which governmental agencies, industrial associations, or public interest organizations can turn for the organization of multi-disciplinary groups to make recommendations on substantive or methodological problem areas in environmental epidemiology, and

Whereas no existing organization is available to take the initiative in identifying areas or topics in which environmental epidemiology can make an impact on environmental policy,

Therefore we join in the establishment of the International Society for Environmental Epidemiology in order to meet these needs and to strengthen the scientific input to environmental protection."

Science of the Total Environment. 1992 Dec 15; 127 (1/2): ix-x

Since 1988, the ISEE membership has grown from the 150 charter members to more than 800 members from more than 60 countries. Although approximately one-half of the membership of ISEE is from North America, the Society has a strong commitment to an international perspective with broad international representation in the Society's leadership, committees, and conferences.

Among the Society's many noteworthy accomplishments are: 1) hosting annual conferences that have met in all regions of the world, including the USA, Canada, Mexico, Europe, Middle East, Asia, Australia, and Africa; 2) development and advocacy of ethics guidelines for environmental epidemiology research and practice; 3) development and support of active regional chapters and local groups; 4) promotion of international collaboration through capacity building activities; 5) early establishment of close working relationships with exposure assessment professionals, including joint meetings with ISES and representation on each other's monthly councilor calls; 6) provision of travel assistance for students and persons from countries underserved by epidemiology to attend the annual conference; and 7) development of a formal awards program in recognition of excellence in environmental epidemiologic research, ethical integrity in research and practice, leadership or service, and student and new investigator research accomplishments. Other milestones include the Society's affiliation with Epidemiology as the Society's official journal in 1994 and establishment of a permanent Secretariat in 1996.

More information about ISEE's mission, its by-laws, leadership, past and future conferences, chapters, and committees is available on this website.

Back to top