Funded by a competitive grant from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Healthy Kids Minnesota is a first-of-its-kind state effort to systematically measure children’s exposures across the state. The program will start in Minneapolis and southeastern Minnesota, partnering with Minneapolis Public Schools, Rochester Public Schools, Olmsted County Public Health and Fillmore County Public Health to enroll 3-to-6-year-old children during their early childhood screening appointments. If parents or guardians choose to enroll their kids, they will be asked to help them obtain a urine sample, which will be tested for chemicals.
MDH was one of six states to receive a State‐Based Public Health Laboratory Biomonitoring Programs grant from CDC. Biomonitoring involves measurement of environmental chemicals in people. It goes beyond testing water, soil, air and products to examine if some groups have more of these chemicals in their bodies than others. Comparing differences can tell families and communities who is being exposed to what and if there are disparities in exposure to potentially harmful chemicals.
“This new approach will provide key information about kids’ environmental exposures to chemicals and that in turn will help us learn more about how we can help parents, health care providers and communities limit harmful exposures,” said Minnesota Commissioner of Health Jan Malcolm in a press release.
Recruitment started in Minneapolis in August and will begin in southeast Minnesota in this fall. MDH and its partners over the next five years will conduct the program in one non-metro and one metro region per year.
Participation in Healthy Kids Minnesota is voluntary, families are compensated for their time, and all personal information is kept private and protected by Minnesota law. Participation is only open to children through their scheduled early childhood screening appointments in these areas. For more information about how to participate, visit the Healthy Kids Minnesota website.
The Minnesota Biomonitoring program will work with partners and the Public Health Laboratory at MDH to measure more than 45 chemicals in children’s urine, including:
- Metals found in drinking water, air pollution, and some foods and products.
- Pesticides used in agriculture and to control pests in and around the home.
- Phthalates found in personal care products, toys, and some foods.
- Flame retardants found in household products like furniture and toys.
- Environmental phenols found in personal care products, toys, and some foods.
- Air pollution chemicals from traffic exhaust, cigarette smoke and industry.
Children’s developing bodies are especially vulnerable to chemical exposures. Results from the project will help inform families, address community concerns, and promote policies that reduce childhood exposures and promote healthy neighborhoods and homes. Families will receive all their children’s results if they choose to do so, along with information on how to reduce children’s exposure to these chemicals. In some cases, families will also receive early follow-up if their child’s results are elevated.
“Healthy Kids Minnesota is a much-needed step in improving children’s environmental health and health equity,” said Cindy Hillyer of Minneapolis Public Schools in a press release. “By partnering with MDH, we can offer families the chance to learn more about their child’s chemical exposures and provide information to reduce these exposures. And we can contribute to the larger goal of helping kids in our state be as healthy as they can be.”
Early childhood screening helps children be ready for kindergarten by identifying possible health or developmental concerns that may impact a child’s learning. Minnesota kids are required to receive this free screening before they enter kindergarten; the screening includes vision and hearing, thinking and language skills, and social and emotional development.