Biomonitoring is only useful when the data produced is reliable. It is only possible when it is affordable on the scale needed for population-wide surveys and studies like The Heartland Study.
A critical goal for the HHRA is investing in improvements of state-of-the-art analytical chemistry. We need methods able to detect low-levels of pesticides in food, water, human tissues, and fluids with precision and reliability. This is why HHRA is investing in the development of more accurate methods, and methods that are quicker and less costly to use.
Already, HHRA support has created the first validated method for detecting glyphosate in amniotic fluid. We are working with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the Centre de Toxicologie du Québec (CTQ), Canada’s equivalent to the CDC, in developing a method to detect both 2,4-D and dicamba in urine with a single method.
No one has a validated method to crack this nut in the world. Doing so will save The Heartland Study well over a half-million dollars in testing costs (6,000 fewer urine samples tested, at about $125 per sample).
HHRA science has to tackle the individual contribution of single herbicides to adverse birth outcomes, as well as their overall cumulative impact.
We know from ongoing CDC biomonitoring that the average pregnant woman in the Midwest is exposed most days of the year to multiple herbicides and their metabolic breakdown products. But we do not know which ones contribute significantly, moderately, or not at all to adverse health outcomes.
And so we have to develop analytical methods that detect multiple herbicides with a single method, accurately.
There is icing on this cake. HHRA-stimulated progress in analytical methods will contribute to progress globally in government-funded and private-sector pesticide biomonitoring programs.
Already, the HHRA has triggered valuable discussions among scientists working to develop better and less expensive analytical methods. We are striving to encourage cooperation and collaboration across analytical labs, so that the overall biomonitoring database accessible to scientists grows both in size and accuracy.