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What is Human Biomonitoring?

Biomonitoring in the US and Responses

Bioethical Controversies

California's Biomonitoring Program

California Controversies

Future of Biomonitoring

Links and Resources

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What is Human Biomonitoring?

Human Biomonitoring

Human biomonitoring tests the human body for the presence of a wide array of harmful and potentially harmful chemicals, toxics, and other substances. Typically, a small amount of blood and urine can be tested for traces of a wide spectrum of substances.



Human Biomonitoring Technology

Human biomonitoring technology has become increasingly accessible in the past few decades for two reasons:

  1. Testing capabilities have improved. Smaller traces of substances can now be tested for in smaller samples than before. There are, however, still relatively few labs that are able to test such small amounts.
  2. The cost of testing has decreased, though it remains expensive (costing tens of thousands of dollars per person). (Duncan, 2006)

As testing capabilities continue to improve and as biomonitoring becomes an increasingly known and sought after analysis of public health, biomonitoring technology promises to become even more prevalent.



An Issue of Human Health

Human biomonitoring programs mark significant shifts in how issues of environmental health are dealt with by state and federal governments. In the past, regulation and remediation of toxic substances has been primarily considered the duty of environmental and agricultural agencies. For example, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates car and factory emissions and is charged with approving or disapproving the use of chemicals. Similarly, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates which pesticides can be used on crops grown for human consumption and which drugs are safe for human use.

Biomonitoring programs, though they seek to test for and potentially remediate and regulate the same substances typically overseen by environmental and agricultural agencies, have been created through and managed by human health services agencies. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the California Department of Health Services (CDHS) are two organizations currently spearheading pushes for institutionalized biomonitoring programs (CDC and CDHS).

Though human environmental health as been an important issue in United States environmentalism for many decades, human health services agencies are now at the forefront of human environmental health activism. This marks a significant shift in how chemicals and toxic substances are publicly and politically viewed:

Toxics are no longer seen as preventable harms. They are, rather, dangerously unavoidable. Instead of preventing harm, we must now work to treat it.








Image 2. Blood samples.








Image 3. Cart of urine samples.






Last updated:  May, 2007


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