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Press Release

For Immediate Release
July 28, 2004
Division of Media Relations
(404) 498-0070

CDC Makes Advances in Identifying and Measuring Chemical Agents in Humans

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Journal of Analytical Toxicology have collaborated on a special edition of the journal devoted to assessing human exposure to chemical agents. The edition, released today, highlights new methods using state-of-the-art instruments to measure low-level exposure to chemicals, including, those that might be used by terrorists, such as nerve agents, sulfur mustard agents, and cyanide compounds, and provides detailed animal-exposure information and reference values for assessing potential human exposure.

“Exposure to chemical agents is a relatively modern concern and the literature base describing methods for detecting exposure is scant,” said Dr. John Barr, a CDC research chemist and guest editor of the journal. “This research is the most complete compilation of methods and data related to biomonitoring for chemical agents.”

The 15 journal articles will serve as a preview of new techniques and methods that have been developed and are used by the National Biomonitoring Program (NBP), which is part of CDC’s Environmental Health Laboratory. The program specializes in measuring toxic substances or their metabolites in human specimens, such as blood or urine. NBP has developed methods to measure about 300 environmental chemicals from 2-3 tubes of blood and a regular urine sample.

In a chemical event, biomonitoring data provides information about the extent of exposure in a given individual and the proportion of a population affected by the exposure. The methods described in the journal will be used to identify people who need treatment, those at risk of developing long-term health effects or delayed health effects, and those who are worried that they may have been exposed to a chemical agent. The methods also will be used to assist in other disciplines like forensics.

“This research is setting the analytical standard and will increase the scientific and public health community’s knowledge about measuring these agents,” said Dr. Bruce A. Goldberger, Ph.D., Editor in chief of the Journal of Analytical Toxicology.

Abstracts for the special issue can be found at 

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