biomonitoring_picIn broad terms, Biomonitoring is the measurement of chemicals or their metabolites in human or animal biospecimens (blood, milk, eggs, fish, etc.).DTSC has successfully used ECL's data on grazing animals and fish to monitor POPs in the vicinity of contaminated sites (Oroville, Mojave, Stockton). In some cases, measuring contaminants in local wildlife or grazing animals can be a more efficient way to map the extent of contamination than traditional soil sampling.

Human Biomonitoring — the measurement of chemicals or their metabolites in a person's body — can provide an overall measure of human exposure to certain chemicals found in air, water, food, soil, dust, and consumer products. Biomonitoring helps us track the amounts and types of chemicals that get into people from all sources as it integrates all exposure pathways. Biomonitoring provides data on temporal, demographic and geographic trends and links to health outcomes. It can identify new, "unknown chemicals" to study and, therefore, it can measure the efficacy of California's chemical regulatory programs, serving as the ultimate performance indicator for regulatory interventions. For example, in 2013 we showed that levels of toxic flame retardants (PBDEs) are declining since they were legislatively banned in 2003 (AB 302, Chan).


ECL's work with Biomonitoring

In the late 1980s, ECL scientists measured Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) in grazing animals and fish in the vicinity of industrial facilities (metal smelters and wood treatment plants). This pioneering work helped map the extent of contamination and helped support Health Advisories to protect residents. ECL expanded its capabilities to measure additional chemicals in wildlife and human tissues, and has collaborated in numerous epidemiological studies on toxic chemicals.

Biomonitoring data are used to identify chemicals for pollution prevention, regulation or de-regulation.As with the PBDEs, proving adverse effects in humans is not required, nor desired, for actions to be taken to reduce exposures. This "Toxics Early Warning System" is a direct performance indicator for California's environmental protection efforts.

ECL uses biomonitoring to identify chemicals of emerging concern (CEC) in people or wildlife, then look upstream to identify where the chemicals come from and how they move through the environment.Data are used to look at whether levels in people, wildlife, and the environment are increasing or decreasing.

ECL is part of the California Biomonitoring Program, a collaborative effort among DTSC, the Office of Health Hazard Assessment and the California Department of Public Health. ECL is tasked with measuring several targeted classes of POPs (organochlorine pesticides, PCBs, flame retardants, fluorinated chemicals, ingredients in personal care products, etc.), as well as with identifying new, "unknown" chemicals.

DTSC Biomonitoring Symposium 2007

DTSC hosted a free, public, half-day Biomonitoring Symposium on May 17, 2007 in Sacramento.

  • Agenda (includes links to the speakers’ biographies and video clips)
  • Brochure