Past Conferences

International Society for Environmental Epidemiology 13th Annual Conference

The 13th Annual Conference of the International Society for Environmental Epidemiology was held in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, at the Congress Center, September 2-8, 2001. To increase the emphasis on the health impact of environmental influences during major political and economic changes, the conference was organized together with the Central and Eastern European Chapter of ISEE. Conference co-chairs were Drs. H.-Erich Wichmann (Germany) and Ivan Ciznar (Slovak Republic). Our host was the GSF National Research Center for Environment and Health, Neuherberg/ Munich, Germany.The ISEE conference was also part of the Conference Week on Environmental and Genetic Influences on Human Health. Joint sessions were held with the Tenth Conference of the International Genetic Epidemiology Society (IGES), which took place at the same time at the same location. Also part of the Conference Week was the U.S.-European workshop "Gene-Environment Research at the Interface of Toxicology and Epidemiology." The organizing committee and the participants are thanked for creating a multifaceted, inspirational and thought-provoking scientific meeting.

The conference sponsors included the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences; the World Health Organization; the Health Effects Institute; the California Department of Health Services; the World Bank; the American Chemistry Council; the European Science Foundation; and several German sponsors, including GSF.

The meeting attracted 733 registrants from 50 different countries, including 95 students. Grants and other forms of sponsorship supported 44 travel awards. Sponsors also paid the registration fee for 93 scientists from around the world. Attendees were from Australia (13), Austria (5), Azerbaijan (3), Belgium (9), Brazil (4), Canada (23), China (4), Czech Republic (19), Denmark (6), Finland (10), France (33), Germany (102), Greece (3), Hungary (8), India (3), Iran (4), Israel (7), Italy (29), Lithuania (4), Mexico (6), Netherlands (22), Norway (6), Poland (7), Portugal (3), Romania (4), Russia (4), Slovak Republic (14), South Korea (8), Spain (11), Sweden (16), Switzerland (23), Taiwan (10), Ukraine (3), United Kingdom (49), USA (212). Other countries represented included Chile, Egypt, Estonia, Ireland, Japan, Korea, Kyrgyzstan, Luxembourg, New Zealand, Nigeria, North Korea, Peru, Sierra Leone, Slovenia, and South Africa.

The conference program began with an opening session on Saturday that included a keynote address by Dr. Alan Wilcox entitled "Environmental and Genetic Influences on Human Health." The opening ceremonies ended with the presentation of ISEE awards and the short lecture of Prof. Wieslaw Jedrychowski, winner of the second John Goldsmith Award.

The ISEE 2001 meeting included four full days of program, including 43 symposia, 22 oral sessions and 19 poster sessions. Of the 509 abstracts, 358 were presented as oral and 151 as poster presentations. The abstracts were published in the July 2001 issue of Epidemiology (Vol.12, No. 4), and they were also printed in the Conference book of abstracts. For the convenience of meeting participants, the organizers also provided a detailed index of themes in the Conference abstract book.

The scientific program provided an exceptionally wide view of environmental health topics. It focused especially on the following (number of oral sessions/symposia + poster sessions in brackets): ambient air pollution/particles/traffic [14+1], allergy/immune system [5], Central and Eastern Europe [4+1], climate change [4+1], epidemiological/statistical methods/

GIS [4+1], electromagnetic fields [4], arsenic/metals [3+1], genetic/molecular epidemiology [3+IGES+US-EU workshop], disasters [3], health impact assessment/risk communication [2+2], pregnancy/birth outcomes [2+1], and indoor air pollution [2+1].

As in several previous meetings, the health effects of outdoor air pollution provided the largest contribution to the meeting program. In several sessions, papers on the effects of particulates or gaseous pollution on mortality, chronic respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, hospital admissions, birth outcomes, and other health effects were presented. In former socialist countries, following major political and economic changes, the resolution of problems associated with air and other forms of pollution is crucial. These issues were highlighted in a symposium on health and environment in Central and Eastern Europe.

In recent years a lot of research has concentrated on indoor air quality and healthy housing, and their relationship to allergy and respiratory health. Evidence of the extensive study of etiological factors of asthma and allergy, particularly by central European groups, was found in the program of this meeting. One of the interesting questions is the potential of endotoxins, derived from the cell walls of gram-negative bacteria, to inhibit the development of allergy. This was one of the themes in the symposium on exogenous factors and immune system.

Symposia such as "Prion Diseases in Animals and Humans," "Follow up of Health Complaints after Disasters, Incidents and Wars," "Socioeconomic inequalities" and "Weather, Climate Variability and Climate Change" pointed out new or constant risks of modern society. These and other sessions also illustrated the range of experts participating in the meeting.

ISEE has always emphasized the significance of health impact assessment for planning public health policies and action programs to improve environmental health at national levels. Promoting environmental epidemiology training and capacity building in developing countries is also one of the main tasks of these scientific meetings.

The conference was held in a town which is the union of the two ancient villages of Garmisch and Partenkirchen, located in southern Germany at the junction of the deep Loisach and Partnach valleys, at the foot of the Wettersteingebirge, which includes the Zugspitze, the highest mountain in Germany. For decades, Garmisch-Partenkirchen has been a popular health and winter-sports resort. During the visit we could experience the impressive vistas yet still feel much of the place's frendly and rural character with old streets and peasant houses. Although the weather was rather cold and rainy, the southern Germany atmosphere, evident at the Bavarian Evening conference dinner warmed us and introduced us to local music and cuisine. Constant queues in the Internet Café, despite it having several PCs, also suggested that the atmosphere was transmitted by emails to offices and families around the world.

Participants were also invited to attend the 14th conference of ISEE, which will be held in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, jointly with the 12th Conference of the International Society of Exposure Analysis (ISEA).

Reported by Helena Mussalo-Rauhamaa, PhD, MD, and H.-Erich Wichmann, PhD, MD

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