An essential first step in preventing chemical-induced problems in the human population is accurately tracking over time what we are exposed to. Testing for chemicals in bodily fluids like urine and blood, and in tissues like the placenta, liver, and brain is called biomonitoring.

HHRA is committed to both carrying out new biomonitoring studies and supporting a big increase in government funding for biomonitoring. 

Why? Because humans face so many chemical threats that the sheer magnitude of the task in understanding their impacts on human health quickly creates intellectual and scientific gridlock. 

Too much to do, too many priorities typically means nothing gets settled, at least not in time to prevent harm. And we all need to remember: the goal of public health research is to prevent disease and human suffering, not to just trace its causes after the fact.

HHRA will focus its biomonitoring work on chemicals entering the human body as a result of how farmers control crop pests and protect their cows, pigs, chickens, and sheep from disease. We will integrate and analyze incoming biomonitoring data, and fill knowledge gaps by sponsoring targeted biomonitoring efforts.  

We will generate the most complete and accurate accounting of changes in levels of herbicides in people in the 13-state Midwestern Heartland Study region, and especially the pregnant women and children that participate in The Heartland Study.

By accessing stored sample banks from past research around the country, we will compile and publish trajectories in herbicide levels in people from the early 1990s through today. We fully expect to see the most dramatic increases in dicamba in people beginning in 2016, rising rapidly through 2021, and then either leveling off or rapidly declining if regulators — or the Courts — end further use of dicamba-tolerant soybean and cotton seeds.

The big jump in 2,4-D use and exposure levels in the Heartland began in 2020. The biggest increases will occur in 2021 and 2022, and should level off by 2024.

To achieve our scientific goals, we must have access to accurate data on exposure levels. To understand trends, we need more data, and need more that strategically targets biomonitoring. The HHRA intends to be like a broken record, skipping endlessly with our advocacy for more investments in biomonitoring.

More on Measuring Pesticides in People

Analytical Methods

HHRA is hard at work to pioneer new, more accurate and efficient methods of measuring pesticide exposure in people.

Nested Case Control Study

Our team is using stored urine samples from the nuMoM2b cohort, or research group, to understand herbicide exposure in pregnant women who lived in the Heartland in 2010-2014. Find out more here.