Relation of Body Burden Measures to Ambient Exposures.
NIOSH 1985 May:15 pages
Body burden measurements and their relationship to ambient exposures were discussed. The body burden of a toxic substance is said to be the amount of the substance in the human body and represents the difference between cumulative absorption and excretion of the substance. Measuring body burdens provides a precise individual measurement of exposure to a toxin. Such measurements are useful in epidemiologic risk assessments and provide a means of relating exposure to absorption. The principles underlying measuring body burdens were discussed. When absorbed, toxins are usually distributed across several physiologically distinct compartments. The compartments are defined by the dynamic behavior of the toxin contained within them and do not necessarily correspond to specific anatomical sites. Lead (7439921) and polybrominated-biphenyl (59536651) exposures were discussed as examples of body burden measurements. Limitations of body burden measurements were described. Body burden measurements generally are not very useful in providing information on short term changes in exposure. The body burden does not respond rapidly to fluctuations in exposure except in the case of very rapidly excreted toxins. An understanding of the toxicokinetics of absorbed materials is necessary in order to use body burden measurements in the most effective manner. Ethical aspects of body burden measurements were discussed. Because measuring body burdens may tend to label individuals as being at increased risk of disease, body burden measurements should be coupled with environmental exposure measurements. Measuring body burdens of individuals in the absence of environmental exposure measurements is considered unethical.
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