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Environment international

A proposal for assessing study quality: Biomonitoring, Environmental Epidemiology, and Short-lived Chemicals (BEES-C) instrument.


PMID 25137624

Abstract

The quality of exposure assessment is a major determinant of the overall quality of any environmental epidemiology study. The use of biomonitoring as a tool for assessing exposure to ubiquitous chemicals with short physiologic half-lives began relatively recently. These chemicals present several challenges, including their presence in analytical laboratories and sampling equipment, difficulty in establishing temporal order in cross-sectional studies, short- and long-term variability in exposures and biomarker concentrations, and a paucity of information on the number of measurements required for proper exposure classification. To date, the scientific community has not developed a set of systematic guidelines for designing, implementing and interpreting studies of short-lived chemicals that use biomonitoring as the exposure metric or for evaluating the quality of this type of research for WOE assessments or for peer review of grants or publications. We describe key issues that affect epidemiology studies using biomonitoring data on short-lived chemicals and propose a systematic instrument--the Biomonitoring, Environmental Epidemiology, and Short-lived Chemicals (BEES-C) instrument--for evaluating the quality of research proposals and studies that incorporate biomonitoring data on short-lived chemicals. Quality criteria for three areas considered fundamental to the evaluation of epidemiology studies that include biological measurements of short-lived chemicals are described: 1) biomarker selection and measurement, 2) study design and execution, and 3) general epidemiological study design considerations. We recognize that the development of an evaluative tool such as BEES-C is neither simple nor non-controversial. We hope and anticipate that the instrument will initiate further discussion/debate on this topic.