What Does this Mean?

We use a lot of science-y and technical words in the MDHHS Division of Environmental Health. Below are definitions for some of the words we use in our projects.

Biomonitoring: Biomonitoring involves measuring the levels of chemicals in the human body either at a single moment in time or over a period of time. Scientists often use biomonitoring as a way to measure if people are being exposed to certain chemicals and how much. Knowing the level of chemicals in the human body can also help scientists better understand the relationship between chemical exposure and human health.

Exposure Assessment: An exposure assessment can be used to find out if people in a community have been exposed to certain chemicals found in their environment. Exposure assessments involve figuring out which chemicals people might be exposed to, what the levels in the environmental are, and how much of the chemicals enter into people’s bodies and in what way (e.g., through breathing, eating, drinking water, etc.).

Exposure assessments can include measuring chemicals in the environment (like in the air or water) and in people’s bodies (through biological samples, like blood or urine, for example) and/or administering a survey to see how people might have come into contact with those chemicals. Exposure assessments are just a snapshot in time – they can only tell you what a person’s level of exposure was at the time of the assessment. Exposure assessments are often focused on specific chemicals and points of exposure, they do not assess all the chemicals you may have been exposed to over a lifetime. Also, exposure assessments may not be able to tell you what chemicals you may have been exposed to in the past or how much. They also aren’t able to link any possible health problems to the exposure.

Health Study: A health study can be used to understand how someone’s exposure to chemicals might relate to their health. The scientists doing the study may use a survey to collect information on current health conditions. The survey may help show how much, how often, and when a person may have been exposed to chemicals or other hazards. Scientists may also take biological samples, like blood or urine, from the person to measure the amount of chemicals in their body at that time. They also often do a robust health assessment – measuring things like cholesterol, thyroid levels, weight, and blood pressure, to potentially identify any patterns between health and chemical exposures.


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