The Potluck

Free tests look for harmful chemicals in young children

By: - November 16, 2021 5:00 pm

Photo by Jon Cherry/Getty Images.

Children starting kindergarten in southeastern Minnesota can get free testing for possible exposure to harmful chemicals as part of a new pilot program, the Minnesota Department of Health announced on Tuesday.

Families who bring their kids ages 3 to 6 to early childhood screening appointments, which are required for public school enrollment, will receive a $40 gift card if they choose to participate in the voluntary biomonitoring program.

Participants’ guardians will help collect a urine sample from children involved, which screening centers will send to the state’s Public Health Laboratory for testing.

The health department will test samples for more than 45 chemicals, including metals from drinking water, pesticides and air-pollutants from traffic exhaust and cigarette smoke.

Kids are especially susceptible to chemical exposure, and high levels of chemical exposure can cause health problems in the kidneys, heart and even cancer.

Minnesota is one of just six states to run such a pilot program with funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It launched in Minneapolis Public Schools in August and will begin in Rochester, Olmsted County and Fillmore County.

Each year for five years, the health department will conduct one such biomonitoring program in a metro area and one in a non-metro region.

While participants’ personal information will remain private, the health department will publish community data from the testing for each year of the program and a five-year report when the first five cycles are complete.

Families can choose to receive their child’s results and information on how to reduce chemical exposure, though it could take a year or longer to see these details. The health department will call the guardians of kids with high chemical levels in their samples to learn where these chemicals are coming from and how to avoid them.

The laboratory will destroy participants’ samples after testing them.

Learn more about how to participate in the program here.

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Anna Koenning
Anna Koenning

Anna Koenning is a reporting intern for the Reformer. She covered international news for Madrid-based El Independiente and works as a barista when she isn't at the Reformer or in class at the University of Minnesota, where she studies journalism, Spanish and political science.