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Environ Health Perspect. 2009 Apr;117(4):495-9. doi: 10.1289/ehp.0800037. Epub 2008 Oct 30.

A new spin on research translation: the Boston Consensus Conference on Human Biomonitoring.

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  • 1Department of Environmental Health, Boston University School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts 02118, USA.



Translating research to make it more understandable and effective (research translation) has been declared a priority in environmental health but does not always include communication to the public or residents of communities affected by environmental hazards. Their unique perspectives are also commonly missing from discussions about science and technology policy. The consensus conference process, developed in Denmark, offers a way to address this gap.


The Boston Consensus Conference on Human Biomonitoring, held in Boston, Massachusetts, in the fall of 2006, was designed to educate and elicit input from 15 Boston-area residents on the scientifically complex topic of human biomonitoring for environmental chemicals. This lay panel considered the many ethical, legal, and scientific issues surrounding biomonitoring and prepared a report expressing their views.


The lay panel's findings provide a distinct and important voice on the expanding use of biomonitoring. In some cases, such as a call for opt-in reporting of biomonitoring results to study participants, they mirror recommendations raised elsewhere. Other conclusions have not been heard previously, including the recommendation that an individual's results should be statutorily exempted from the medical record unless permission is granted, and the opportunity to use biomonitoring data to stimulate green chemistry.


The consensus conference model addresses both aspects of a broader conception of research translation: engaging the public in scientific questions, and bringing their unique perspectives to bear on public health research, practice, and policy. In this specific application, a lay panel's recommendations on biomonitoring surveillance, communication, and ethics have practical implications for the conduct of biomonitoring studies and surveillance programs.


biomonitoring; consensus conference; environmental health surveillance; participatory democracy; research translation

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