Biomonitoring: Chemicals in people

Biomonitoring measures chemicals in people

Biomonitoring tells us about people's exposure to chemicals by measuring them in blood, urine, or hair. It measures the amount of a chemical that actually enters the body when people are exposed through air, food, and drink, and by absorbing it through the skin. As the most direct measure of a person's exposure, biomonitoring provides a critical link between chemical hazards in the environment and potential health effects.

Biomonitoring is an important public health tool

Ways that biomonitoring informs public health:

  • Measure and track changes in chemical exposures over time
  • Identify groups that are highly exposed to chemicals
  • Inform and evaluate programs and policies to reduce exposures

Some chemicals harm our health. Biomonitoring helps scientists study whether chemical exposures cause disease. Biomonitoring data are used to determine whether people are exposed to levels of a chemical that could cause health effects like learning problems, cancer, and asthma. These data are also used to identify trends in chemical exposures over time.

What are public health agencies doing?

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Biomonitoring Program measures hundreds of chemicals in a representative sample of the U.S. population through the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). For more, see the National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals.

The NHANES data do not tell us about state and local level exposures. Minnesota Biomonitoring: Chemicals in People, established in 2007, has developed the epidemiologic expertise and laboratory capacity necessary to conduct biomonitoring here in Minnesota. Our state program is also one of six states who currently receive a State-based Public Health Laboratory Biomonitoring Programs grant from CDC.

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