ECHO Researchers Analyze Potential Toxicity of Chemicals, Discover Gaps in Chemical Research

Edo Pellizzari, PhD, RTI International, ECHO Researcher

In a recent article in Environmental Health Perspectives, ECHO researchers discuss their work on identifying and ranking chemicals that have not been biomonitored nationally but may negatively affect child health. Biomonitoring is a process that detects chemicals that people are exposed to and measures how much of those chemicals get into the body.

To collect information, researchers examined different environmental elements (i.e., food, water, air, house dust) and household products that may contain toxic chemicals. Among other tasks, they put the chemicals into three groups:

  1. Chemicals recommended for biomonitoring
  2. Chemicals that need more information
  3. Chemicals that are a low priority for biomonitoring

Of the identified 720 chemicals, 155 were selected for prioritization, and of these, 36 were recommended for biomonitoring, 108 need additional research, and 11 were considered low priority. The chemicals recommended for biomonitoring add to the list of those currently studied by the ECHO Program. The chemicals that did not meet the three criteria – prevalence in environmental media or biospecimens, toxicity and a biomarker for its measurement – show the gap in current chemical research.

“There is a large opportunity to expand our ability to measure and evaluate chemicals to which the public is likely exposed,” the authors note. “These opportunities include performing exposure measurements, developing methods for biomonitoring, and toxicity testing of chemicals.”

While several thousand chemicals are approved for use in the United States, there is little information on biomonitoring of exposures in pregnant women, babies, and children. This limits the ability to evaluate the potential health impact of a variety of chemicals.

Through this study, the research team hopes others in the science community will be encouraged to study the identified chemicals and improve understanding of the potential health consequences they present in pregnant women, infants, and young kids.