Biomonitoring and Environmental Justice
By Kenneth Aldous , Division of Environmental Health Sciences , Wadsworth Center , New York State Department of Health and Antonia M . Calafat , Division of Laboratory Sciences , National Center for Environmental Health , US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Over 200 people from 34 states attended APHL ’ s virtual National Biomonitoring Meeting : A Systems Approach for State Biomonitoring Programs , planned by the National Biomonitoring Network
( NBN ) Steering Committee . NBN members requested environmental justice be a priority at this year ’ s meeting , and attendees awarded the environmental justice session with highest ratings in the post-meeting evaluation .
The environmental justice and biomonitoring session offered attendees three engaging presentations :
• Gary Adamkiewicz , PhD , MPH , associate professor of Environmental Health and Exposure Disparities and director of the Healthy Cities Lab at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health
, discussed the connections between the built environment and health , and why many disparities in environmental exposures closely relate to where individuals live and to systemic and racist policies .
A lively panel discussion was moderated by Marc Nascarella , PhD , chief toxicologist at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health
. Presenters offered practical considerations when designing a biomonitoring study for engaging individuals from diverse racial , ethnic or tribal community populations . Ornelas Van Horne suggested that offering community members an opportunity to visit a state public health laboratory and talk with scientists would help demystify some study details and the experience of being a biomonitoring study participant . She offered this hands-on approach as a practical way to engender trust within a community and provide an opportunity to discuss actual biomonitoring study procedures , including a realistic timeframe for the many needed study steps ( e . g ., results reporting ). Erdei urged state public health laboratory scientists to consider how structural racism combined with potential loss of funding for laboratory services may contribute to marginalized communities ’ reluctance to engage with study investigators . For example , loss of funding for a specific environmental testing service once offered ( e . g ., community water testing ) may contribute to systemic distrust of laboratory studies within a community . Adamkiewicz recommended that states ensure environmental justice is a deliberate consideration within any study design that seeks to address environmental exposures . He described how differences in access to certain consumer products ( e . g ., cleaners ,
10 LAB MATTERS Summer 2022