The disaster environment frequently presents rapidly evolving and unpredictable hazardous exposures to emergency responders. Improved estimates of exposure and effect from biomonitoring can be used to assess exposure-response relationships, potential health consequences, and effectiveness of control measures. Disaster settings, however, pose significant challenges for biomonitoring. A decision process for determining when to conduct biomonitoring during and following disasters was developed. Separate but overlapping decision processes were developed for biomonitoring performed as part of occupational health investigations that directly benefit emergency responders in the short term and for biomonitoring intended to support research studies. Two categories of factors critical to the decision process for biomonitoring were identified: Is biomonitoring appropriate for the intended purpose and is biomonitoring feasible under the circumstances of the emergency response? Factors within these categories include information needs, relevance, interpretability, ethics, methodology, and logistics. Biomonitoring of emergency responders can be a valuable tool for exposure and risk assessment. Information needs, relevance, and interpretability will largely determine if biomonitoring is appropriate; logistical factors will largely determine if biomonitoring is feasible. The decision process should be formalized and may benefit from advance planning.
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