Biomarkers of exposure in community settings.

Research paper by Susan W SW Metcalf, Kenneth G KG Orloff

Indexed on: 15 Jun '04Published on: 15 Jun '04Published in: Journal of toxicology and environmental health. Part A


Biomonitoring is a valuable tool for assessing human exposures to chemical contaminants in the environment. Biomonitoring tests can be divided into biomarkers of exposure, effect, and susceptibility. In studies of community exposure to an environmental contaminant, biomarkers of exposure are most often used. The ideal biomarker should be sensitive, specific, biologically relevant, practical, inexpensive, and available. Seldom does a biomarker meet all of these criteria--most biomarkers represent a compromise of these criteria. In designing a community exposure study, consideration should also be given to the selection of the test population, the practicality of collecting biological samples, temporal or seasonal variations in exposure, the availability of background comparison ranges, and interpretation of the test results. Biomonitoring tests provide unequivocal evidence of exposure, but they do not typically identify the source of exposure. Furthermore, rarely do the test results predict a health outcome. For many chemicals, testing must be conducted soon after exposure has occurred. In spite of these limitations, the use of biomonitoring is finding wider application in many scientific disciplines. Recent advances in analytical techniques are expanding the utility of biomarker testing in public health investigations.