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Summary Report Hair Analysis Panel Discussion Exploring The State Of The Science

Hair Analysis Panel Discussion: Foreword

Historical Document

This Web site is provided by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) ONLY as an historical reference for the public health community. It is no longer being maintained and the data it contains may no longer be current and/or accurate.


The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) has found the expert panel process to be an effective tool for discussing and weighing scientific and public health issues. ATSDR convened one such expert panel to discuss the state of the science related to analyzing hair for environmental substances of concern found at hazardous waste sites. The panel consisted of individuals who represented state and federal government agencies, academia, and private practice and whose expertise, interests, and experience covered a wide range of technical disciplines that were critical to the issues being discussed. ATSDR convened the expert panel as part of an effort to begin formulating guidance on the use of hair analysis in exposure assessments. The panel met to discuss their opinions regarding hair analysis for 1½ days in June 2001 in Atlanta, Georgia. This document summarizes the panel discussions.

For ATSDR, the overarching objective of the panel discussion was to gain information on when to consider using hair analysis for exposure assessments. Exposure assessments are a necessary component of public health assessments and other related public health activities performed by the Agency for communities near hazardous waste sites. The Agency sought information about the overall utility, advantages, and limitations of hair analysis and how these factors would affect informed decisions on a site-specific basis.

The panel was asked to address a series of general questions about the science of hair analysis. These focused on exposure assessment and health interpretation of the results of hair analysis. The panel was strongly encouraged to avoid discussing the merits of hair analysis for drug testing or nutritional screening, unless such discussions involved a technical point that was directly applicable to environmental exposure assessment at hazardous waste sites. ATSDR did not seek consensus statements from the panel; rather, the panel was asked to discuss in detail specific issues related to methodology, factors influencing the interpretation of results, toxicologic considerations, data gaps, and research needs. The opinions expressed in the report are those of the individual panelists and may or may not represent those of ATSDR.

ATSDR views the panel discussions as a first step to sorting through the scientific issues regarding the advantages and disadvantages of hair analysis. ATSDR plans to weigh the information and data presented at the panel meeting and, over the next few months, develop interim guidance for its health assessors and other professionals who are asked by communities about the virtues of hair analysis as it relates to exposure and health evaluations at hazardous waste sites.

RADM Robert C. Williams, P.E., DEE
Assistant Surgeon General
U.S. Public Health Service
Director, Division of Health Assessment and Consultation (DHAC)
Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry

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