The NCSL Blog


By Doug Farquhar

A new report discovers that certain chemicals, such as PFOA, BPA and flame retardants, are commonly found in the U.S. population, but lead levels continue to drop. The report is from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) ongoing assessments of human exposure to environmental chemicals.

CDC identifies chemicals through biomonitoring, a process that detects chemicals in samples of blood and urine. The blood and urine levels reflect the amount of the chemical that actually gets into people from the environment.

CDC’s Division of Laboratory Sciences released new data for the National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals, an ongoing biomonitoring assessment of the U.S. population’s exposure to environmental chemicals.

Biomonitoring helps assess nutrition in the U.S. population and exposure to natural or man-made chemicals in the environment. By measuring substances in people, such as urine, blood, or serum, public health officials and scientists are able to identify nutrition deficiencies and unusual or potentially harmful chemical exposures.

The Updated Tables, March 2018 provides data for 346 chemicals, 38 which are new and 176 have updated data since the last release. This release updates to the tables and provides new data for blood metals, phthalate metabolites, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Serum per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) were measured in a special sample of children ages 3 to 11 years, and metabolites of several organophosphate flame retardants are reported for the first time.

Almost 700 bills are pending in state legislatures in 2018 regarding chemicals, according to the NCSL Environmental Health Database, including restrictions on flame retardants, BPA in children’s products, and PFOA chemicals in drinking water.

The measurement of an environmental chemical in a person’s blood or urine does not mean that the chemical causes disease or adverse effects. But it does provide a gauge to determine the extent that chemicals are found in people.

Doug Farquhar directs the Environmental Health program at NCSL.

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About the NCSL Blog

This blog offers updates on the National Conference of State Legislatures' research and training, the latest on federalism and the state legislative institution, and posts about state legislators and legislative staff. The blog is edited by NCSL staff and written primarily by NCSL's experts on public policy and the state legislative institution.