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CDC Report on Environmental Chemicals

August 2005

From a CDC press release

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued Third National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals. The report contained some good news for public health officials: there is a significant decline in exposure to secondhand smoke, and children's blood lead levels continue to decline.

Researchers used biomonitoring of blood and urine to gauge exposure from all environmental sources.

Levels of cotinine, a marker of exposure to secondhand smoke in nonsmokers, dropped significantly since levels were first measured from 1988 to 1991. The third report shows that non- Hispanic blacks have levels twice as high as those of non-Hispanic whites or Mexican-Americans, and children's levels are twice as high as adults' levels.

New data for 1999-2002 on blood lead levels in children ages 1-5 showed that only 1.6 percent of children had elevated levels. This percentage has decreased from 4.4 percent in the early 1990s.

The report suggests the need for more research on health effects of exposure to low levels of cadmium. Recent studies indicated that cadmium in urine as low as 1 microgram per gram of creatinine may be associated with subtle kidney injury and an increased risk for low bone mineral density. The report said about 5 percent of the U.S. population 20 years and older had urinary cadmium at or near these levels. Cigarette smoking is said to be the likely source for these higher cadmium levels. More research is recommended on the public health consequences of these levels in people in this age group.

For this year's report, CDC's Environmental Health Laboratory measured 148 chemicals - 38 of which have never been measured in the U.S. population. The report addresses phthalates as well as additional dioxins, furans, pesticides and herbicides. For many of those exposures, the report establishes the "95th percentile" ranges, or the levels at which 95 percent of the population has exposure below that level.

The Third National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals and an executive summary are available online at :

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