8 September 2004
INTERNATIONAL COUNCIL OF CHEMICAL ASSOCIATIONS
POSITION ON BIOMONITORING
Scientists have long understood that our bodies absorb substances from our environments.
Today, because of recent technological advances of analytical chemistry, biomonitoring
technology allows researchers to detect and measure extraordinarily low levels of natural and
man-made chemicals in blood, urine, breast milk or other human fluids/tissue.
Biomonitoring is a promising public health tool that can help us better understand human
exposure to a wide-range of substances. As biomonitoring technology advances, more
information is being made available to help public and private sector scientists, medical
professionals and policy makers enhance public health, community well-being and worker
health and safety.
Like all potentially useful tools, biomonitoring has limitations. Trace levels of natural or
man-made substances may enter our bodies through a variety of routes, including eating,
breathing, drinking, and contact with our surroundings. They may also be generated
internally through natural processes such as metabolism. Biomonitoring provides a snapshot
of those substances present in the body at a single point in time, but it does not tell us where
a substance came from, when a person was exposed to it, the amount of exposure over time
or if there will be any health effects. Still, biomonitoring can help improve public health
decisions when it is part of an integrated strategy that not only identifies exposure to a
substance but also assesses the potential health risk of that exposure.
ICCA Supports the Development of Science-Based Exposure Information
To advance the broad public health promise of biomonitoring, the International Council of
Chemical Associations (ICCA) supports the use of biomonitoring as an evolving approach to
obtain additional exposure information. As part of our industry’s longstanding Responsible
Care® initiative and its commitment to work with the scientific community and governments
to develop the scientific foundation for risk-based decision making, the business of chemistry
is committed to promoting the science and methodologies needed to interpret biomonitoring
in a risk-based process.
We do this through programs to promote worker and consumer health and safety in our
businesses, through the actions of individual companies and sector groups (including work
on HPV chemicals), and through collaborative research. The ICCA Long-Range Research
Initiative, for example, has made significant investments in the science underlying
biomonitoring issues and will continue to do so.1
ICCA Supports Science-Based Biomonitoring Programs
As a scientific endeavor, biomonitoring should always be grounded in sound scientific and
public health principles. The process for selecting substances for biomonitoring should be
based on accepted, scientific, public health criteria and should involve appropriate experts.
The purpose for collecting the information should be clearly stated in any proposed
biomonitoring program. Whether a biomonitoring program is focused on a broad population,
a targeted population or a worker population, the program design, conduct and results should
be science-based, transparent and communicated fully and in context. Study designs of
government authorized population-based biomonitoring programs should be subject to public
review by an expert group of scientists and should rely on validated analytical methods
performed by laboratories that adhere to scientifically robust QA/QC procedures. These
programs should also provide clear information to the participants to aid in the understanding
of the results in a health context.
ICCA Supports the Responsible and Appropriate Use of Biomonitoring Information in
Risk Assessment and in Creating Public Policy
Biomonitoring information is useful to define further research and to collect information on
exposure trends over time. It also is useful as a component of an exposure assessment.
However, biomonitoring only provides information on the level of a substance in the sample
at a specific point in time, which by itself cannot answer questions about risk or the safety of
the substance or its alternatives. Therefore, biomonitoring programs should not be
automatically linked to regulatory actions or product bans or substitution. There must be a
risk-based process for interpreting biomonitoring results or for using the results for
regulatory or other decision-making processes.
ICCA Supports the Appropriate Interpretation and Communication of Biomonitoring
Information to Promote Risk-Based Decision Making
The presence of trace levels of chemicals in the body could be misinterpreted, creating
unwarranted alarm. Therefore, ICCA believes that biomonitoring findings must be
communicated in a public health context and government agencies must play a larger role in
Globally the LRI anticipates spending about $7 million over the next 3 years on research relating
biomonitoring to health outcomes and evaluating biomarkers, and the ICCA LRI is proposing a future global
effort on the interpretation of biomonitoring data.
interpreting the biomonitoring information that they develop and/or disseminate. ICCA
encourages collaborative efforts among government and private entities, professional
associations and medical and scientific experts to achieve this objective.
ICCA also encourages member companies and sector groups whose products are, or may be,
included in a reliable human biomonitoring program to pursue development and
dissemination of the chemical-specific methods and information necessary to promote risk-
based decision-making. This chemical-specific information is necessary for making
informed decisions to protect public health and for effective, risk-based communication of
the meaning of biomonitoring findings to the public.