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A New Method for Generating Distribution of Biomonitoring Equivalents to Support Exposure Assessment and Prioritization
Phillips, M., J. Sobus, Barbara J. George, K. Isaacs, R. Conolly, AND C. Tan. A New Method for Generating Distribution of Biomonitoring Equivalents to Support Exposure Assessment and Prioritization. REGULATORY TOXICOLOGY AND PHARMACOLOGY. Elsevier Science Ltd, New York, NY, 69(3):434-442, (2014).
Biomonitoring data are now available for hundreds of chemicals through state and national health surveys. Exposure guidance values also exist for many of these chemicals. Several methods are frequently used to evaluate biomarker data with respect to a guidance value. The “biomonitoring equivalent” (BE) approach estimates a single biomarker concentration (called the BE) that corresponds to a guidance value (e.g., Maximum Contaminant Level, Reference Dose, etc.), which can then be compared with measured biomarker data. The resulting “hazard quotient” estimates (HQ = biomarker concentration/BE) can then be used to prioritize chemicals for follow-up examinations. This approach is used exclusively for population-level assessments, and works best when the central tendency of measurement data is considered. Complementary approaches are therefore needed for assessing individual biomarker levels, particularly those that fall within the upper percentiles of measurement distributions. In this case study, probabilistic models were first used to generate distributions of BEs for perchlorate based on the point-of-departure (POD) of 7 μg/kg/day. These distributions reflect possible biomarker concentrations in a hypothetical population where all individuals are exposed at the POD. A statistical analysis was then performed to evaluate urinary perchlorate measurements from adults in the 2001 to 2002 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). Each NHANES adult was assumed to have experienced repeated exposure at the POD, and their biomarker concentration was interpreted probabilistically with respect to a BE distribution. The HQ based on the geometric mean (GM) urinary perchlorate concentration was estimated to be much lower than unity (HQ ≈ 0.07). This result suggests that the average NHANES adult was exposed to perchlorate at a level well below the POD. Regarding individuals, at least a 99.8% probability was calculated for all but two NHANES adults that a higher biomarker concentration would have been observed compared to what was actually measured if the daily dietary exposure had been at the POD. This is strong evidence that individual perchlorate exposures in the 2001–2002 NHANES adult population were likely well below the POD. This case study demonstrates that the “stochastic BE approach” provides useful quantitative metrics, in addition to HQ estimates, for comparison across chemicals. This methodology should be considered when evaluating biomarker measurements against exposure guidance values, and when examining chemicals that have been identified as needing follow-up investigation based on existing HQ estimates.
The National Exposure Research Laboratory′s (NERL′s) Human Exposure and Atmospheric Sciences Division (HEASD) conducts research in support of EPA′s mission to protect human health and the environment. HEASD′s research program supports Goal 1 (Clean Air) and Goal 4 (Healthy People) of EPA′s strategic plan. More specifically, our division conducts research to characterize the movement of pollutants from the source to contact with humans. Our multidisciplinary research program produces Methods, Measurements, and Models to identify relationships between and characterize processes that link source emissions, environmental concentrations, human exposures, and target-tissue dose. The impact of these tools is improved regulatory programs and policies for EPA.
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Organization:U.S. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY
OFFICE OF RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT
NATIONAL EXPOSURE RESEARCH LAB
HUMAN EXPOSURE AND ATMOSPHERIC SCIENCES DIVISION
EXPOSURE & DOSE RESEARCH BRANCH