A new study published online on April 10, 2015 in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Health Perspectives investigates trends in the uses of the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) chemical biomarker data. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines a chemical biomarker as a chemical, its metabolite, or the product of an interaction between a chemical and some target molecule that is measured in the human body. In the study, Sobus and colleagues performed a literature search using the PubMed advanced search builder to identify publications in which NHANES data were reported in the 1999-2013 period. The identified subset was evaluated for structural groupings, data analysis approaches, and overall trends. The publications included in the review have collectively reported on tens-of-thousands of measurements from representative samples of the U.S. population. However, only 8% (yearly average) of the sampled NHANES-related publications reported on chemical biomarkers. Of 11 chemical groups, metals/metalloids were most frequently evaluated (49%), followed by pesticides (9%) and environmental phenols (7%), including a common food contact substance bisphenol A (BPA, CAS 80-05-7). The authors found that the number of publications linking chemical biomarkers to health metrics has, however, markedly increased in recent years. Extrapolating from their results, the authors expect that more than 100 articles examining NHANES data will be published annually in the future. Based on this usage, NHANES data will likely impact chemical risk assessment decisions. Therefore, best practices for analysis and interpretation of NHANES data must be defined and adopted to allow the full potential of the NHANES to be realized, the authors emphasize.

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Sobus, J.R. et al. (2015). “Uses of NHANES biomarker data for chemical risk assessment: trends, challenges, and opportunities.Environmental Health Perspectives (open access, published online April 10, 2015).