State Receives $5 Million Grant to Study Human Exposure To Micro-Amounts of Environmental Toxins

ALBANY, N.Y. (Dec. 28, 2009) – A five-year federal grant will help the state Department of Health expand a laboratory biomonitoring program to evaluate state and regional concerns about human exposure to environmental toxicants, State Health Commissioner Richard F. Daines, M.D., announced today.

"Biomonitoring moves public health surveillance into the 21st century by directly measuring chemicals or their by-products in human specimens, rather than deducing exposure from analysis of environmental samples," Commissioner Daines said. "This approach allows for more accurate risk assessment and detection of exposure trends that merit more attention for potential health effects."

The $5 million grant will be managed by Dr. Kenneth Aldous, Director of the Division of Environmental Health Sciences at the Department's Wadsworth Center laboratories. New York is one of only three states to receive biomonitoring funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The laboratories first received CDC support to develop a biomonitoring plan in 2001, which subsequently allowed for purchase of sophisticated instruments required to detect contaminants at very small levels, from parts per million to parts per trillion.

Wadsworth staff have since developed sensitive methods to measure in blood, urine and breath biomarkers of contaminants such as nicotine metabolites, flame retardants and cancer-causing compounds formed on well-cooked meat.

The new award will support a broader analysis of archived biological specimens collected during the New York City Community Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. The addition of new target compounds, such as diesel emissions, endocrine-disrupting chemicals, trace elements (e.g., selenium) and possibly trans fats, will create baseline data for comparison with an equivalent national survey conducted by the CDC.

Other projects will address specific exposure concerns among select populations or sites. These include measurement of mercury exposure from fish consumption among members of several Chinese communities, and development of new methods to detect contaminants of growing concern, such as chemicals used in the production of plastics.

"New York has long been at the forefront of environmental risk analysis, and CDC's support of our biomonitoring program simply reinforces our position as a leader among state public health laboratories," Commissioner Daines said.