What Is Biomonitoring?
iomonitoring is the laboratory analysis of blood, urine, serum, saliva, and other body
fluids to identify the burden of certain chemicals present in the human body.
Biomonitoring allows us to recognize the populations that are exposed to and potentially
affected by chemicals in the environment. When combined with a nationwide system for
tracking chronic diseases, biomonitoring can provide the information necessary for public
health departments, health care providers, and policymakers to identify and address
public health threats.
How Does Biomonitoring Currently Take Place?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) National Center for Health
Statistics (NCHS) currently conducts its biomonitoring program through the National
Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). NHANES is an annual, cross-
sectional, representative survey designed to collect information about the health and diet
of the civilian, non- institutionalized population of the United States. NHANES samples
about 5,000 people every year through a Mobile Examination Center that travels around
the country to randomly selected households. The Center is staffed by medical
professionals who conduct interviews and physical examinations on study participants.
Extensive laboratory testing of participants’ body fluids is also conducted. For more
information on NHANES methodology and results, please visit
In 1999, the NHANES added 27 chemicals to its laboratory analysis, providing
information on the magnitude and extent of population exposure to these specific
environmental contaminants in air, water, soil and food. The following year, the number
of chemicals examined by the NHANES was expanded to 116. In future years, CDC aims
to add an additional 25 chemicals each year to the survey.
Although the NHANES is a valuable source of information for environmental health, the
study has limitations that include:
• A limited number of