Gino DiCaro

National Academy of Sciences weighs-in on biomonitoring

By Gino DiCaro, VP, Communications

Capitol Update, Aug. 4, 2006

On July 24th, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) issued a report on biomonitoring which reemphasizes many of the same points which opponents of SB 1379 (Don Perata, D-Oakland) have been making all year.  A biomonitoring program needs to be carefully crafted with a solid scientific foundation to avoid disseminating information which would needlessly and perhaps erroneously alarm the public.   The NAS stated, "In spite of its potential, tremendous challenges surround the use of biomonitoring and our ability to generate biomonitoring data has exceeded our ability to interpret what the data means to public health."  

The report develops a research agenda that addresses the key uncertainties in the field and recommends improving risk-based approaches to enhance the scientific and medical community's ability to collect and communicate human biomonitoring data.

The NAS cautioned that appropriate statistical principles need to be followed when sampling populations, a "coordinated and scientific strategy" should "be developed to ensure that the selection of chemicals and the development of biomarkers focus first and foremost on the potential of chemicals to cause harm and consider the likelihood of substantial or widespread population exposure."  "There is a need for clarification of what biomarkers can and cannot be used for."  The NAS committee cautioned, "Just because people have an environmental chemical in their blood or urine does not mean that the chemical causes disease.  The toxicity of a chemical is related to its dose or concentration."

At the present time, SB 1379 contains no scientifically-based criteria for development of a biomonitoring program or selection of chemicals to be included.  It establishes an advisory panel with no scientists to provide direction in addressing technical and scientific issues and it erroneously assumes that there is a cause-effect relationship between detection and harm.

Substantive amendments have been provided to the author which CMTA believes would create a meaningful program.  A coalition of 25 associations, including CMTA, oppose SB 1379 in it's current form.

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