Chemicals in our Environment and Body & the Importance of Collecting Samples

Everyone comes into contact with environmental chemicals every day. Chemicals get into our air, water, soil, dust, and food. There are many natural and man-made chemicals in our environment. For example, chemicals are used to make products such as cosmetics, plastics, cleaning supplies, and electronics.

Chemicals In Our Bodies

There are many ways environmental chemicals get into our bodies:

  • Through eating, drinking, breathing, touching
  • By using certain products at home or work
  • Through some recreational or job activities, like painting or working with pesticides
  • By taking certain supplements or herbal remedies, ciertos suplementos o remedios herbales (Spanish)

Chemicals and our Health

Some environmental chemical exposures are safe and harmless to us, but others can cause diseases or poor health such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease, or developmental delays. However, finding a chemical in your body doesn’t mean that you will get sick. People respond to chemical exposures in different ways such as being more sensitive or severe reactions. Whether you get sick depends on many factors, such as which and how much of the chemical gets into your body and personal traits such as your health status, genetics, and behaviors.

Factors that play a part in whether you get sick from chemicals:

  • The kind of chemical you are exposed to
  • How much of the chemical you were in contact with
  • How long the contact lasted
  • How it entered your body
  • Your health

The Importance of Collecting Biomonitoring Samples

Biomonitoring helps us:

  • Determine which chemicals are getting into people,
  • Find out how much of those chemicals are getting into people, and
  • Whether certain groups of people are more likely to have certain chemicals in them.

Having this information means:

  • We can educate people on how to reduce their exposure to those chemicals in order to protect their health.
  • We can better evaluate and make changes to public policy.
    • One example, reducing the amount of lead in gasoline in the 1970s. Testing of specimens after the Clean Air Act passed showed a significant decrease in the amount of lead in humans. This is important because lead can cause neurological disease, especially in small children.

Biomonitoring Resources