Harmonization and traceability are related metrological principles that are indispensable to assuring measurement comparability across different biomonitoring studies. The Children's Health Exposure Analysis Resource (CHEAR) was established in 2015 with six laboratories providing environmental exposure measurements on biospecimens. To ensure harmonization across studies for trace elements, CHEAR used a multi-faceted approach that included: 1) an initial interlaboratory validation exercise based on the analysis of certified blood and urine reference materials; 2) frequent participation in an established interlaboratory proficiency program for trace elements; and 3) analysis of a common pool of well-characterized biological reference materials with each analytical batch. Method accuracy and precision were established for each laboratory via analysis of NIST SRM 955c Toxic Elements in Caprine Blood, SRM 2668 Toxic Elements in Frozen Human Urine and SRM 3668 Mercury, Perchlorate, and Iodide in Frozen Human Urine. The differences among the six laboratories for As, Cd, Hg, and Mn in urine and Cd, Hg, and Pb in whole blood were judged to be fit-for-purpose. Interlaboratory performance over a 5-year period demonstrated an improvement in performance, such that for 2018-2019, >99% of challenges for urine As, Cd, Hg, and Mn, and 95% for whole blood Cd, Hg, Pb, and Mn, were found to be satisfactory. The CHEAR common reference materials were analyzed by at least 5 laboratories for 22 elements in urine and 13-14 elements in whole blood, thus providing a rich source of data to assess intra- and inter-run performance. The suite of trace elements with assigned values in both blood and urine matrices are more comprehensive than similar reference materials from other sources, and is reflective of the concentrations necessary to support biomonitoring studies. While some areas for future improvement were identified, significant progress was made to improve harmonization of trace element measurements in biological matrices among the CHEAR network labs.
Keywords: Biomonitoring; Children's health; External quality assessment; Harmonization; Proficiency testing; Trace elements.
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