Supporting the Responsible and Appropriate Use of Biomonitoring

CSPA supports the responsible and appropriate use of biomonitoring information in risk assessment in creating public policy. Biomonitoring is the measurement of human exposure to specific substances through an analysis of human bodily tissues or fluids. Human bodies absorb trace amounts of many substances from the surrounding environment. Increasingly advanced technology allows researchers to identify and measure their concentrations of these substances and metabolites in the body. Both natural and man-made substances can be identified through biomonitoring. Substances created in the body, as well as substances we eat, breathe, or have contact with, including chemicals found in consumer products, can be detected. A national biomonitoring program conducted by The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has operated for more than three decades.

The intricate relationship between biomonitoring and human health, including its limitations, must be properly understood to avoid misinterpretation of results. Accurately interpreted, biomonitoring has many positive uses. Data can establish average exposure levels and measure trends in those levels over time, as well as compare data across subgroups like age, sex or ethnicity. Biomonitoring (or medical surveillance) has been widely used to assess occupational exposures and determine action limits. Biomonitoring information can also be used to establish priorities for additional scientific research.

There are limitations on what biomonitoring data can confirm. Data gathered from biomonitoring cannot confirm the source of an exposure, how long the substance has been present in a body or what effect, if any, the substance has on human health. The CDC warns, “Just because we can detect levels of an environmental chemical in a person’s blood or urine does not necessarily mean that the chemical will cause effects or disease. Advances in analytical chemistry enable us to measure low levels of environmental chemicals in people, but separate studies of varying levels of exposure determine whether specific levels cause health effects.” View CDC report

Without being presented in the proper context, data simply showing the presence of a chemical in the body could create unwarranted fear among consumers and unnecessary regulation of consumer products. Some advocacy groups have conducted their own biomonitoring studies, sensationalized the results, and attempted to link the detection of any chemical to chronic diseases in humans, and therefore, suggest chemical bans or restrictions based solely on the ability to detect them via biomonitoring. States have considered proposals to implement biomonitoring programs that would provide chemical exposure data to regulators and public health officials.

CSPA supports the collection and use of biomonitoring data for analyzing actual human exposures among populations over time. CSPA also supports the development of biomonitoring equivalents and methodologies to equate biomonitoring data with doses that can be used in safety assessments and risk assessments. CSPA also encourages education and outreach to ensure that biomonitoring data is explained and given in the appropriate context for both researchers and the general public.

CSPA opposes the use of biomonitoring data to attempt to erroneously link consumer products to negative health effects and place undue restrictions on chemicals or products without scientific merit. CSPA also has concerns with biomonitoring programs that unnecessarily duplicate ongoing federal programs. CSPA will continue to be actively involved in biomonitoring proposals to ensure that biomonitoring data is used appropriately and in the proper context.

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