Later this week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will cast the issue of pollution and health into sharp focus with the release of the fourth and most ambitious edition of the National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals.
212 Chemicals in 8,000 Americans
The CDC biomonitoring report, expected to report finding 212 contaminants in the blood and urine of 8,000 Americans, will constitute the most extensive assessment of the American body burden ever conducted by the federal government.
The latest CDC survey will include, for the first time, analysis of umbilical cord blood. CDC has tested 500 mother/infant pairs, an effort that may offer important new insights into the extent to which fetuses are being polluted by pregnant women’s environmental chemical exposures.
CDC follows EWG model
Until now, the CDC’s surveys have concentrated on adults and older children. To fill the research gap, since 2005, Environmental Working Group has commissioned laboratories to search for several hundred possible pollutants in newborns. On Dec. 2, EWG released test results showing that 232 contaminants, including the plastic chemical bisphenol A, had been found in the cord blood of 10 minority infants born in 2007 and 2008.
Direct evidence of contamination
Biomonitoring techniques pioneered by CDC, academic scientists and groups like EWG are considered the gold standard of the environmental health field, because they eliminate the guesswork when scientists and regulators need to know which contaminants are actually getting into people and should be given top priority for pollution controls.
Want to know more? This in-depth story by Harvey Black, a Madison, WI, journalist specializing in environmental health, explains what biomonitoring has accomplished and where it’s headed.
New frontiers – and limitations – in testing
people’s bodies for chemicals
By Harvey Black
Environmental Health News
December 2, 2009
For scientists, it’s a treasure trove of data, one that might help unravel some of the world’s most enduring medical mysteries.
New horizons in biomonitoring – which measures chemicals that people carry in their bodies – are identifying environmental exposures that may play a role in health problems, including cancer, neurological disorders and diabetes.
At their fingertips, researchers already have precise measurements of nearly 150 chemicals in several thousand American adults and children. Now the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is preparing to release even more extensive data, and expand its reach by testing 500 umbilical cords, which will allow scientists to determine which chemicals babies are exposed to in the womb.
Biomonitoring “is a game changer in environmental health,” said Thomas Burke, professor of health policy and management at Johns Hopkins University and head of a National Research Council panel that examined its potential.
We didn’t have this lens 20 years ago,” he said. “Not very long ago in my career in New Jersey, when we were trying to figure out if there were health effects from hazardous waste sites, we had very limited measures of who’s exposed and to what they are exposed. This is a tremendous breakthrough. It could redirect environmental policy.”