The Commonweal Biomonitoring Resource Center (CBRC) is an international resource seeking to promote individual and community resilience through the collaborative use of knowledge about the hundreds of environmental chemicals that people all over the world carry in their bodies. CBRC was founded 20 years ago by its Director Sharyle Patton. Sharyle also directs the Health and Environment Action Research Team at Commonweal.

What Is Biomonitoring?

Body burden assessments, or biological monitoring (“biomonitoring”), are the simultaneous measurement of the presence and concentration of chemical compounds or their metabolites in human biospecimens such as blood, urine, breastmilk, adipose tissue, hair, saliva and meconium.

For more than 20 years, Commonweal’s Biomonitoring Resource Center has been engaged in projects that further the understanding and documentation of the effects of toxic chemicals in the human body. By documenting the ubiquity and complexity of exposures that ordinary people are experiencing every day, body burden measurements shine a spotlight on the failures of current chemical regulations, and they highlight how improvements in standards can contribute positively to protecting public health. Because of the wide array of health conditions now plausibly linked by scientific research to exposure to different contaminants, body burden measurements can become a tool for those health-affected and community-based groups interested in public health advocacy.

The problem of toxic chemicals was first defined by the stories of workers exposed on the job. Shipbuilders exposed to asbestos were diagnosed with mesothelioma. Coal miners got Black Lung Disease. A higher rate of leukemia was reported in benzene-exposed rubber workers. Love Canal expanded the problem to include exposures from toxic waste sites. Now, 30 years later, the measurements of the level of chemicals in people, also known as body burdens, is becoming a powerful new tool for educating ourselves about the chemicals taking up residence for short or long periods of time within our bodies.

If you are interested in conducting a biomonitoring study, contact Program Director Sharyle Patton.