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About the Program

CDC’s Division of Laboratory Sciences operates the National Biomonitoring Program (NBP). Worldwide, biomonitoring is recognized as a standard for assessing people’s exposure to toxic substances and for responding to serious environmental public health issues.


  • Involves measuring environmental chemicals in human tissues and fluids, such as blood and urine. People are exposed to chemicals through the air, water, food, soil, dust, and consumer products
  • Finds many chemicals in a very small amount—often less than a teaspoon—of blood or urine
  • Assess the nutrition status of the U.S. population

Scientists use biomonitoring to

  • Determine which chemicals are getting into people’s bodies and how much of those chemicals are in blood, urine, breast milk, and saliva
  • Monitor the number of people who have levels of a chemical above a known toxicity level (e.g., blood lead levels)
  • Track exposure trends and impacts of public health programs

Activities of NBP

  • Measures more than 300 environmental chemicals and nutritional indicators in people
  • Develops advanced laboratory methods in peer-reviewed journals so that other laboratories can use them
  • Shares knowledge and trains state public health laboratories in biomonitoring methods
  • Helps assure the quality of laboratory test data so patients and healthcare providers (as well as researchers and public health officials) can be confident that laboratory test results they receive are accurate
  • Funds state-based biomonitoring programs
  • Collaborates with partners on 60–70 studies each year examining the effects of environmental exposure
  • Responds to requests for aid in epidemiological investigations where chemical exposure is suspected
  • Periodically assesses the exposure of the U.S. population to environmental chemicals

Applied Uses

Chemical or Radiological/Nuclear Threats

The science of biomonitoring is used to protect the public in the event of a chemical or radiological/nuclear emergency. Biomonitoring provides a reliable way to determine the identity of chemical agents and radionuclides, to find out who has been exposed and to what extent.


Biomonitoring has been applied to the development of specific methods to help diagnose, treat, and prevent diseases caused by toxins. CDC is continuing to do research on toxins, developing new test methods; increasing testing capacity during toxin-specific emergencies; and using advanced technology to improve public health outcomes to toxin related diseases throughout the world.

Tobacco Smoke

Biomonitoring is used to assess people’s exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke. CDC investigates both individual and population exposures to the chemicals in tobacco products and measures toxic and addictive substances in tobacco smoke. CDC continues to monitor the U.S. population’s exposure to secondhand smoke and assess the effects of actions and policies to reduce secondhand smoke exposure.

Reports and Data

National Biomonitoring Program (NBP) data and biomonitoring research is used to develop multiple publications and reports. CDC utilizes that data to develop two key reports:

Data is also used for various studies, journal articles and publications:

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