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What is Biomonitoring?
  • A method of assessing human exposure to chemicals
  • be used to determine environmental exposure directly rather than relying on models based on environmental testing, such as air or drinking water samples
  • Involves measuring environmental chemicals (or their metabolites or reaction products) in human tissues and fluids, such as blood and urine
  • Integrates all pathways/routes of exposure (such as ingestion or inhalation) to chemicals from all sources, including chemicals in the air, water, food, soil, dust, and consumer products

The purposes of biomonitoring include:
  • Determine which chemicals are getting into people's bodies and how much of those chemicals are in blood, urine, breast milk, or saliva
  • Empower individuals to make decisions around controlling exposures to reduce negative impacts on health
  • Monitor the number of people who have chemicals in their bodies at higher levels compared to a representative sample of residents in the US
  • Track exposure trends over time
  • Help assess the effectiveness of public health actions to prevent excessive exposure to chemicals. Such public health and health promotion actions include:
    • Environmental regulations
    • Public health policies/interventions
    • Safer consumer product development

The basic steps in biomonitoring are:
  • Identify community
  • Recruit participants
  • Collect samples
  • Analyze samples
  • Report-back to participants
  • Empower individuals to make decisions around controlling exposures to reduce negative impacts on health.

In collaboration with the three other four corners states (Arizona, Colorado, and Utah), the New Mexico Department of Health has received funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to develop biomonitoring capacity within the state and region.

The four corners states region, and specifically New Mexico differ considerably from the rest of the country. For example, the region and state have a highly rural nature and relatively low population density as well as richness in natural mineral resources. The work in New Mexico will allow us to understand how chemical levels in our bodies compare to the country, and if there are specific exposures we should be concerned about.

During this 5-year cooperative agreement with CDC (2014 - 2019), the Four Corners States Biomonitoring Consortium (4CSBC) will be conducting various studies throughout the region to investigate the following potential environmental exposures:
  • Metals (arsenic, cadmium, manganese, mercury, selenium, and uranium) through private-well drinking water, and other sources, like food and dietary supplements (see
  • Phthalates, which are chemicals used in plastics and some consumer products
  • Herbicides, used in both agricultural and domestic settings to kill weeds or unwanted plants
  • Para-dichlorobenzene, which is a chemical used in disinfectants, pesticides, and some consumer products
  • Pyrethroid-containing insecticides used for insect control around homes, recreational areas, and for mosquito control

4CSBC reports:

Metals Exposure and Private Well Water Assessment in Southeastern Sandoval County

The Southeastern Sandoval County area is known to have high levels of naturally occurring arsenic in the ground water. Because private wells do not require periodic testing by law, it is difficult for us to know how many private wells have high levels of arsenic in their water. We also do not know how many people living in this area, who use private wells as their source of drinking water, might be exposed to high arsenic levels, and/or other metals from the water and other sources.

Report being finalized

The 4CSBC project is made possible by funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC is part of the US Department of Health and Human Services. The title of the grant is "The 4 Corner States are Collaborating to Develop and Enhance Biomonitoring Capability to Assess Human Exposure in this Region". The award number is 5U88EH001153. The study period is from September 1, 2014 through August 31, 2019.

Arsenic Exposure in a New Mexico Urban Community on Private Well Water

Arsenic (As) in private well drinking water is a public health concern in New Mexico, where it has been measured in groundwater in several locations at concentrations above the Environmental Protection Agency maximum contaminant level (MCL) of 10 micrograms per Liter (mcg/L). Arsenic occurs naturally in soil, minerals, and ground water and inorganic arsenic is a known human carcinogen. Approximately 20 percent of New Mexico residents rely on private domestic wells for drinking water. New Mexico law does not require private well water quality monitoring. Owners of private wells are solely responsible for the maintenance and monitoring of their drinking water quality.

The objective of this project was to estimate exposure to inorganic As among private well water consumers, inform participants of their potential exposure sources, and deliver health education so that they could make decisions to reduce their exposures, if appropriate.
Arsenic Exposure in a New Mexico Urban Community on Private Well Water, New Mexico Epidemiology Report (497.7 KB)

Grants Mineral Belt Uranium Biomonitoring Project Summary

The Department of Health's Environmental Health Epidemiology Bureau (EHEB) recruited volunteers in the Grants Mineral Belt area during May and June of 2010 as part of public health surveillance for uranium exposure. The Grants Mineral Belt area was selected for uranium testing due to its known natural deposits of uranium, as well as its history of uranium contamination due to mining and milling activities. Specifically, the communities of Grants, San Mateo, San Rafael, Bluewater, Milan, and Laguna Pueblo participated. A description of why the EHEB conducted this testing, how this testing was conducted, what was found, what the results mean, and what the recommendations are can be found here

New Mexico Depleted Uranium Project

During the 2007 legislative session, Senate Bill (SB) 611 allocated $40,000 to "develop a testing protocol, develop and establish a health registry, contract with appropriate testing laboratories and coordinate affected parties in regard to a voluntary testing program for military veterans who may have been exposed to depleted uranium or other uranium isotopes in the Persian Gulf war or in the current Iraq or Afghanistan conflict." The Epidemiology and Response Division/Environmental Health Epidemiology Bureau (EHEB) of the New Mexico Department of Health conducted the tasks outlined in the legislation.
NM Depleted Uranium Project Summary (48 KB)

Blood Spots Analysis

Dried Blood Spot Metals Analysis Feasibility Study Report
Report (8.8 MB)

Pilot study for utilization of dried blood spots for screening of lead, mercury and cadmium in newborns
Report (476.7 KB)