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Information for Participants

NHANES Biospecimen Program

The NHANES Biospecimen Program consists of stored samples of serum, plasma, urine, and DNA collected from blood and urine of participants during their NHANES exam. Stored samples are available to researchers using them to answer public health questions. Researchers must go through a rigorous process and review by the NCHS Ethics Review Board to determine if the study is ethical. Results or data from this research are also available to other researchers.

The biorepository program is important because it uses laboratory samples to answer public health questions for the entire population. These samples can be used to answer questions about new or changing medical areas that may not have been known at the time they were collected. So far, researchers using data and samples from the biorepository program have published over 150 articles answering questions ranging from "Are certain vitamins associated with a specific chronic health condition?" to "How much environmental contaminants do we have in our bodies?"

What does participation involve?

Eligible NHANES participants are asked if they are willing to have a portion of their samples stored and used for later research. Willing participants sign a consent for their samples to be used for future research. Those who consent are participating in the NHANES Biorepository Program.

What are the benefits to me and my family?

We will not contact you with any results from the biorepository program. All results from the biorepository program are limited to answering broad, public health questions. The results are not clinical results and your healthcare provider cannot use these results to make decisions about your health.

However, when you give your blood and urine samples at the NHANES mobile examination center (MEC), you are helping to improve all of our health. Researchers may use your samples to help answer questions that can benefit everyone. The biorepository program is another way that study participants can use their samples to add to our understanding of the nation’s health and answer public health questions.


Frequently Asked Questions

How long will my stored samples be saved?

There is no end date for sample storage. Currently, samples are stored until they are completely used for research.

Can I access my stored samples?

No. Individual samples stored in the biorepository program are not able to be accessed. Researchers with an approved research protocol are given access to samples based on research criteria not linked to an individual.

Will anyone be able to identify me through using my samples?

Health information collected in NHANES, including genetic information, is kept in strictest confidence. Researchers requesting access to the stored samples or genetic data must apply for access to these samples or data. Genetic data is either maintained under restricted use in the NCHS Research Data Center (RDC) or completely unlinked from any identifiers and then made accessible.


Informed Consent

Health information collected in the NHANES is kept in strictest confidence. During the informed consent process, survey participants are assured that data collected will be used only for stated purposes and will not be disclosed or released to others without the consent of the individual or the establishment in accordance with section 308(d) of the Public Health Service Act (42 U.S.C. 242m).

Only samples from participants who have consented for future research are stored in the NHANES Biospecimen Repository and are available to researchers.


Publications using specimens and data from the biorepository program

Researchers from Federal agencies, universities, and other scientific centers have been using samples and data from the biorepository program for their public health research for many years. This research has produced over 150 publications covering a wide range of topics, such as Vitamin D, asthma, and genetic associations with obesity and other health conditions.

Publications using DNA Specimens 

Publications using Serum, Plasma, and Urine Specimens 


Who can I contact if I have questions?

To discuss the NHANES survey or to speak to our Senior Medical Officer, call us at 1-800-452-6115. If you have questions about your rights as a survey participant, call the Research Ethics Review Board at the National Center for Health Statistics at 1-800-223-8118. Leave a brief message containing your name, phone number, and your NHANES concerns. Your call will be returned as soon as possible.

Thank you.