NH Public Health Labs Launches biomonitoringNewHampshire

Submitted by Amanda Cosser, MPH - Biomonitoring Program Manager, NH Public Health Laboratories

The New Hampshire Public Health Laboratories (NH PHL), a bureau of the New Hampshire Division of Public Health Services, is excited to announce the start of their new biomonitoring program, biomonitoringNewHampshire.  With financial and technical assistance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) National Center for Environmental Health (RFA EH14140202), biomonitoringNewHampshire will be conducting two studies over the next four years evaluating environmental chemicals in humans.  Biomonitoring is the study of natural or man-made chemicals (or their metabolites or reaction products) from the environment in human specimens such as urine, blood, or tissue.  Epidemiologists and scientists at the NH PHL will be working side-by-side to design and conduct two studies which will give public health professionals valuable information regarding whether and how much chemicals from the environment are entering our bodies.  These studies are crucial to many objectives of the State Health Improvement Plan (SHIP) as they go hand-in-hand with the overall approach of the SHIP: population health. 

The first study is a targeted biomonitoring evaluation of arsenic and uranium from residents in three high risk counties in southern NH (Rockingham, Strafford, and Hillsborough).  Research conducted by the US Geological Survey has shown that the bedrock in these counties is highly conducive to leaching arsenic and uranium into water.  If left untreated, humans consuming, cooking, and bathing with arsenic-contaminated well water at levels above the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) maximum contaminant level of 10 parts per billion have been shown to develop bladder, skin, and lung cancer.1  Arsenic exposure has also been linked to negative effects on respiratory, cardiovascular, and immunological health and has been shown to cause developmental delays in children.2  The toxic effects of uranium in the general population have not been as widely studied, however occupational exposures to uranium in miners and other workers have been found to cause respiratory disease such as fibrosis and emphysema.3  Since 40% of NH’s population uses private wells as their main water source and because the EPA does not have the authority to regulate well water quality, it is important to evaluate possible contaminants in order to identify at-risk populations and develop effective public health interventions.

The second study biomonitoringNewHampshire will be conducting is a state-wide surveillance project looking for various metals, pesticide metabolites, perfluorochemicals, and nutritional biomarkers.  This surveillance project is vital to having NH-specific biomonitoring data.  Annually the CDC conducts the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey which gives a snapshot of the health and nutritional status of the US as an aggregate.  Important data are collected regarding the prevalence of and risk factors for many diseases.  Unfortunately that data cannot be broken down by state and so evidence-based state-specific public health interventions cannot be implemented.  For that reason, biomonitoringNewHampshire is excited to start collecting NH-specific data that can be used to assess the health of NH residents, to evaluate public health interventions that are already in place, and to inform policy makers as new interventions are proposed.

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