Framework for an Ongoing Biomonitoring Program: Protecting Future Generations
Biomonitoring is the direct measurement of chemicals (or their breakdown products) in people's blood, urine, or hair.
Since 2007 the Minnesota Biomonitoring Program and our expert Advisory Panel have worked together to develop the framework for an ongoing biomonitoring program that meets Minnesota Statutes. This Framework is based on lessons learned from biomonitoring projects, meetings with diverse stakeholders, and national initiative to promote biomonitoring (see: Developing the Framework).
Vision, Purpose, and Strategies for Biomonitoring
Vision: Minnesotans will lead healthier lives and live in safer environments
- To identify differences in the levels of chemicals among Minnesota's diverse populations, which may differ by income, ethnicity, culture, or geographic location
- To assess the need for public health policy and action
- To track changes over time to find out whether actions taken to reduce chemical exposures have been effective
- Protect Future Generations
- Choose Chemicals Wisely So People Can Take Action
- Use a Smart, Cost-Effective Tracking Approach
1) Protect Future Generations: Focus the ongoing biomonitoring program on people and communities who are most vulnerable to the effects of chemicals at low levels commonly found in our environment, and on those who are least able to modify their environment to avoid exposure. Such a program would protect future generations by focusing on:
- Children and newborns
- Pregnant women and developing fetuses
- Women of childbearing age
- Disadvantaged communities
Before birth and through infancy and childhood, children are highly sensitive to exposures in the environment. Per pound of body weight, children drink more water, eat more food, and breathe more air than adults do, increasing their exposures. When infants and toddlers explore the world with their hands and mouths, they may touch and swallow materials in dust or soil.
During prenatal development, exposure to some chemicals can affect the nervous system. Outcomes can include damaged hearing or sight, slow learning, delayed development, and behavior problems. Preventing disability and disease, a major public health goal, needs to begin early to give all Minnesota children a health start.
2) Choose Chemicals Wisely so People Can Take Action: Public health officials can choose chemicals that are a concern or common in Minnesota, either because of our natural environment (climate, geology, lakes) our industries, our communities, or our diverse people and cultures. Also, they should choose chemicals that provide the most meaningful data for making health-based decisions. These include chemicals with known health effects and/or chemicals for which the sources of exposure can be identified and remedied.
Mercury can potentially harm the health of Minnesota's children and vulnerable groups. Other environmental chemicals of concern include:
- Arsenic, manganese, and other metals in drinking water
- Lead, secondhand tobacco smoke, carbon monoxide, or formaldehyde from indoor environments
- Particles and ozone from traffic and fuel burning
- Chemicals in consumer products that alter the hormone system; affecting growth and development
- Pesticides used in our homes and in agriculture
3. Use a Smart, Cost-Effective Tracking Approach: Start small and use systematic, repeated biomonitoring in one or more vulnerable communities in Minnesota. This tracking approach measures exposures in these communities over time and space for the purposes of tracking trends and geographic patterns.
Data collected could be integrated with MN Environmental Public Health Tracking Program's environmental monitoring and health data, and used to inform public health action and decisions by communities, policy makers, and public health officials. Individuals also can use the information to make personal health choices.
Putting It All Together
Understanding the connections between the environment, exposures, and health is important in determining how to improve and protect the health of Minnesotans. People need to know how the levels in our bodies are connected to health.
For questions or more information, contact the Minnesota Biomonitoring Program.