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Frequently Asked Questions

Questions about the CARE Study 

Questions about study participation

Questions about safety and securityQuestions about biomonitoring 

About the CARE Study

What is the CARE Study?

The California Regional Exposure (CARE) Study measures levels of chemicals in people across the state. We also collect information from participants that can help us understand how people come into contact with chemicals, like their daily habits, the jobs they do, and the places they live. The CARE Study will also help us learn if there are areas of California where people have higher levels of chemicals in their bodies.

Why is this study important?

Information from the CARE Study can support policy makers and communities in taking action to protect our environment and health.

Who is conducting the CARE Study?

The CARE Study is conducted by Biomonitoring California, which is a collaboration of the California Department of Public Health and the California Environmental Protection Agency. This project is funded by the State of California and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Why are you doing the CARE Study here? Why now?

The CARE Study is a statewide study, moving region by region across the state. We are studying one region per year, and in 2020 we are in San Diego County and Orange County. The CARE Study has already met with participants in Los Angeles, Riverside, San Bernardino, Imperial, Mono, and Inyo counties.

What chemicals does the CARE Study measure?

We are measuring metals (including mercury, lead, arsenic, and cadmium) that are found in nature and are used in many industries and products.  We are also measuring chemicals known as perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs), which are used to make products resistant to oil, stains, grease, and water.

Can these chemicals harm my health?

The metals we measure are linked to a range of potential health effects, such as harming brain development in growing babies and children, affecting the heart and lungs, and increasing cancer risk. PFASs may affect the growing fetus and child; could harm the liver and the immune system; may increase the risk of thyroid disease; and may increase cancer risk. 

The CARE Study will tell us the amount of metals and PFASs in your body, but your test results will not tell us if those chemical are harming your health. 

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About study participation

Can everybody participate?

No. We are limited to 300-500 participants per year. People who express interest in the study are first screened for eligibility, then we carefully select participants to reflect the population of their region.  Selected participants are notified by mail or e-mail.

What does participation involve?

Study participants will receive an invitation by e-mail or postal mail.  The invitation will include a consent form, survey, and instructions on how to set up an appointment. 

At your appointment, you will give a urine sample and have a small amount of your blood drawn. We will give you a $50 gift card at your appointment. 

Approximately 6-12 months after we receive your samples, we will send you your results and information on ways to help reduce your contact with chemicals in the future.

What happens if you find chemicals in my body?

We will send you your results and information on how to reduce your contact with chemicals. 

If we find high levels of lead, mercury, arsenic, or cadmium, we will send you a letter and/or call you as soon as possible. That is because these chemicals are linked to known risks to health. We will provide information on how you may have come into contact with the chemical and offer advice on how you can reduce your contact with it. 

If we find that you have very high levels of lead in your body, we are required by law to notify other staff at the California Department of Public Health, who may call you directly. This is because lead can cause very serious health problems.

When do I receive my results?

We will send you your results about 6-12 months after your appointment. We know this sounds like a long time, but it can take several months to measure chemicals in hundreds of people. We appreciate your patience!

If we find high levels of a chemical in your sample, we will notify you as soon as possible with a letter and/or phone call (see “What happens if you find chemicals in my body?”).

How will this study benefit me?

If you request your results on the consent form, you will receive detailed information about the levels of chemicals we measure in your blood and urine. The results packet will show how your results compare to the average levels in your area and the U.S. You will also be given information on ways to help lower your exposure to these chemicals in the future. 

This is a unique opportunity to learn about chemicals in your body. If you were to pay out of pocket for this type of chemical testing, it would cost you between $600 and $1000. Your participation in this study is at no cost to you, and you will be given a $50 gift card as a thank you for your time.

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About safety and security

Who will see my results?

We will never make your results publicly available. You can share your results with your family, friends, or doctor if you want.

What information will be shared with the public?

Results for individual participants are never made available to the public. We will share summaries of study findings with community groups, scientists, policy makers, and the public.  These summaries will be shared on our website and at meetings.

What happens to my samples after the study?

You can give us permission to measure other chemicals in your samples, or you can request that your samples be destroyed after the CARE Study is over. You can tell us what to do with your samples on your Consent Form.

How is my information kept safe?

We store electronic information in password-protected files on secure computer systems. Information that you give us on paper is also stored securely. Your personal information will never be shared or made publicly available

Will you ever test my samples for drugs, genes, or DNA?

No.  This study is focused on chemicals that can be found in the air, water, food, soil, dust, or consumer products. We will never test your blood or urine for prescription, recreational, or illegal drugs, and we will never do any genetic testing on your samples.

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About biomonitoring

What is biomonitoring?

Biomonitoring is a way to measure the chemicals in a person's body. It can tell us which chemicals are getting into people and at what levels. Biomonitoring can help us find out about our contact with (or “exposure to”) the thousands of environmental chemicals in the food we eat, the beverages we drink, the air we breathe, and the products we use.

A biomonitoring study involves collecting biological samples, such as blood or urine, and analyzing the samples for chemicals that might be affecting health. As part of these studies, we ask about ways that you might come into contact with the chemicals we are measuring, to help us understand the most important sources of these chemicals.

A good example of biomonitoring is the widespread testing of children’s blood to find out if they have high levels of lead.

Why is biomonitoring important?

By measuring chemicals in many people across the state and over time, we can learn about who might have more chemicals in their bodies, and if exposures to certain chemicals are increasing or decreasing. 

Scientists can use biomonitoring results along with other information to explore whether the chemicals in our bodies are affecting our health. Policy makers and community groups can use this knowledge in their efforts to protect our health and the environment from harmful chemicals. Biomonitoring can also help us understand how well public health and environmental policies are working to reduce our exposures to these chemicals.

What does biomonitoring not do?​​

Biomonitoring is a useful tool that can confirm that people have been in contact with certain chemicals. However, biomonitoring by itself cannot identify the source of the chemical, or how long you have been in contact with the chemical. Also, even though biomonitoring does tell us the amount of a chemical in your body, it cannot tell us if that chemical is harming your health.

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