Hair sample testing : what can hair sampling results tell me about environmental exposures?
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Hair sample testing : what can hair sampling results tell me about environmental exposures?

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      Sometimes health professionals can check whether people have been exposed to chemicals in the environment. For example, levels of chemicals can be measured in the soils, drinking water, and air where people live and work, and from these measures the amount of chemicals that people might routinely contact can be estimated. For some chemi- cals, urine and blood samples can be collected from people to look for evidence of actual exposure. In recent years, health professionals have debated what hair samples can tell us about environmental exposure. In this fact sheet, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), a public health agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, looks at how best to interpret results from human hair samples to evaluate environmental exposures.

      Currently, hair analysis is used for purposes other than assessing environmental exposures. For example, hair analysis has been used to test for illegal drug use and to conduct criminal investigations. This fact sheet does not address these other uses.

      ATSDR believes many scientific issues need to be resolved before hair analysis can become a useful tool to understand environmental exposures. Although hair analysis may answer some questions about environmental exposure to a few substances, hair analysis often raises more questions than it answers.

      Fact sheet for general public.

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