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Children's Health Protection

Biomonitoring


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This section of the report presents measures reflecting levels of contaminants in children.

Data on the levels of pollutants in children's bodies provide direct information about exposures to environmental contaminants that may harm children. These measurements most often are taken from blood samples, but also can come from sources such as urine or hair. The disadvantage of these measurements is that it is difficult to determine the source of the exposures. For example, lead may occur in children's blood when they inhale airborne lead, eat contaminated food, or when they play in contaminated soil or dust and then put their hands in their mouths. 

Also, it is invasive to obtain samples and can be expensive to obtain enough samples to estimate the distribution of contaminants in children for the nation or for groups that may have higher exposures such as the poor. 

The measures in this report for biomonitoring present data on concentrations of lead in blood. Blood lead is an important measure because it is directly related to neurological and developmental effects in children, and national data are available for a number of years. Many other pollutants for which biomonitoring data are not currently available on a national level are important to children's health. However, the federal government currently is collecting and analyzing biomonitoring data for a number of other compounds important to children, including pesticides, heavy metals such as mercury and cadmium, and compounds that indicate exposure to environmental tobacco smoke. This work will be incorporated into future editions of this report.


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