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Reporting results of human biomonitoring of environmental chemicals to study participants: a comparison of approaches followed in two Canadian studies

Abstract

Biomonitoring is used increasingly as an indicator and quantitative measure of exposure; however, there is a large gap in interpreting and communicating biomonitoring results to study participants. Two separate, national biomonitoring initiatives are under way in Canada; the household recruitment-based Canadian Health Measures Survey (CHMS) and the clinic recruitment-based Maternal-Infant Research on Environmental Chemicals (MIREC) Study. The CHMS provides participants with the option to receive all their results, but this option is not provided to MIREC participants. The approach to reporting results to participants depends on the availability of reference ranges and guidelines for which tissue concentrations may be interpreted as being elevated or associated with increased health risks, how participants are recruited, unique vulnerabilities of the population, legislation governing access to personal information, and decisions of research ethics committees. It is the researchers' responsibility to present the best case for their approach and, once the decision has been made, to inform participants about access to their results through the consent process.

  • Communication
  • environmental health
  • ethics in epidemiology
  • surveillance

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