Epidemiologic data can be used in risk assessment in various ways: to calculate the dose-response relationship between exposure levels and adverse effects; to establish ranges of exposure known to be safe or unsafe; to verify an endpoint in humans derived from a route or species extrapolation; to support assumptions necessary for performing extrapolation procedures. These points are illustrated in the risk assessment for exposure to asbestos in drinking water. A previous risk assessment for asbestos, the EPA's Ambient Water Quality Criteria (AWQC) for Asbestos, was derived from cohort studies of inhalation exposure. Epidemiologic studies of ingested asbestos, all of geographical correlation design, were compared on the basis of their ability to add information in support of both the route extrapolation and low-dose extrapolation used in this risk assessment. Results of these ingestion studies were inconsistent due to variable ability to detect a risk from chronic low-level exposure. After preliminary comparisons of factors that determine scientific validity and statistical power, two ingestion studies were selected to determine if they had the potential to detect the risk predicted by the AWQC. This evaluation has shown that these studies do not offer quantitative data for estimating levels associated with a defined risk.