Environmental Health News, one of TDG's trusted sources of news, today published a story about biomonitoring, the practice of testing real people for exposure to chemicals.
The promise of biomonitoring is great, providing, "a treasure trove of data, one that might help unravel some of the worlds most enduring medical mysteries," as EHN writer Harvey Black put it. Why? Because chemicals can interact with genes and human development, particularly early in life, to produce sometimes surprising health results later in life. A hormone-mimicking chemical might affect someone's metabolism, for instance, increasing his risk of developing diabetes; or it might affect a girl's development, leading to early-onset puberty and a greater risk of developing breast cancer.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is set to release its fourth report on the subject -- the world's most comprehensive biomonitoring effort. It will include data on 500 umbilical cords tested for 150 different chemicals, the first-ever data on infant exposures, as well as a range of data on adult exposures. It follows on the heels of several similar but smaller studies by nonprofit groups. Here are five facts about biomonitoring to consider:
The upcoming CDC report will report on the presence or absence of 212 chemicals -- 43% more than in 2005. And it will test more than three times as many people -- 8,000 Americans.
Still, the tests will account for less than 1% of the chemicals most Americans encounter in everyday life. Omitted are most commercial chemicals -- including most of the 6,000 the Environmental Protection Agency considers "the most likely sources of human exposure," according to a recent report by the Government Accountability Office.
Tests by nonprofit groups, though they include many fewer samples, have shown higher rates of contamination. The Environmental Working Group has detected more than 400 chemicals in people, including more than 300 in the cord blood of newborns. (See the results of EWG's latest cord blood study.)
Testing since the CDC's 2005 report has discovered dioxin, PCBs, DDT and other pesticides and other banned or restricted persistent chemicals were found in most Americans tested. Meanwhile, newer chemicals that have only recently caused concern among health advocates and some scientists are still in wide use.
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