Petroleum and other materials are transformed by industrial processes into fuels, plastic,
pesticides, cosmetics, food additives and pharmaceuticals
Residues of human made substance can now be found in the air, soil, water and food web in the
most remote reaches of the plant.
Pollutants that are distributed ubiquitously result in universal human exposure through
inhalation, drinking water, and the food supply.
Some of the substances to which the general human population is exposed resist metabolism
and excretion and therefore accumulate in body tissues.
The quantity of an exogenous substance or its metabolites that has accumulated in an individual
or population is defined as a body burden.
Individual’s body burden of a pollutant is estimated by measuring the concentration of that
substance in one or more tissues, usually by gas chromatography/mass spectrometry.
Chemical body burdens are complex and dynamic in a number of ways, and these characteristics
make a full characterization of the general public body burden exceedingly difficulty.
First the body of burden of a pollutant is not stable over time. It reflects a dynamic balance
between the amount of taken in and the amount excreted or metabolized into another material
Second, body burdens are not distributed homogenously within an individual: the partitioning of
a pollutant among various tissues and fluids reflects the substances degradability and affinity for
fats, minerals and other endogenous materials.
The choice of compartment in biomonitoring for any pollutants will affect the level of measured,
the limit of detection and the recency of exposure being estimated.
Third, the body of burden of an individual in todays environment consist of hundred of syntehic
Biomonitoring programs in the United States:
Public health officials and scientists use biomonitoring information for surveillance, control and
The purpose of many biomonitoring programs has bee