Whether the property is under the control of an individual, organization or neighborhood association, the potential for environmental contaminants poses a great risk. These chemical contaminants can be introduced into the environment intentionally, through the use of pesticides, herbicides or fertilizer, or unintentionally, through accidental spills or damaged containment facilities. After sufficient contaminant exposure, it is necessary to investigate damage to the animal and plant populations. Investigators can accomplish this by tracking biomarkers.
What are biomarkers?
It can be challenging to trace biological exposure to environmental contaminants. Experts use biomarkers to measure contamination in two ways. They can either isolate and examine the amount of contaminant present in tissue or they can measure the organism’s biological response to the contaminant itself. Three common examples include:
- Contaminant levels: Exposure to pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and mercury can be evaluated based on the level of tissue contamination.
- Tissue anomalies: Researchers can investigate any pathological anomalies that have arisen based on exposure to environmental toxins.
- Presence of tumors: It is not uncommon for researchers to investigate the presence of tumors in fish exposed to contaminated sediment.
The study of these biomarkers can provide insight into the types and degree of contaminant exposure suffered by organisms in the environment. Biomarkers and pathologic response to the exposure can provide a baseline from which investigators can measure deviations.
Property owners are concerned about the environmental stressors and potential for toxic exposure from intentional or unintentional sources. A thorough understanding of biomarkers and what they represent can assist individuals, neighborhood associations, companies and government entities in combatting pollution and toxicity.