Outcomes from Returning Individual versus Only Study-Wide Biomonitoring Results in an Environmental Exposure Study Using the Digital Exposure Report-Back Interface (DERBI)

Julia Green Brody, Piera M Cirillo, Katherine E Boronow, Laurie Havas, Marj Plumb, Herbert P Susmann, Krzysztof Z Gajos, and Barbara A Cohn



Backtround: Study participants want to receive their biomonitoring results for environmental chemicals, and ethics guidelines encourage reporting back. However, few studies have quantitively assessed participants’ responses to individual exposure reports, and digital methods have not been evaluated.
Objectives: We isolated effects of receiving personal results vs. only study-wide findings and investigated whether effects differed for Black participants.
Methods: We randomly assigned a subset of 295 women from the Child Health and Development Studies, half of whom were Black, to receive a report with personal environmental chemical results or only study-wide (aggregate) findings. Reports included results for 42 chemicals and lipids and were prepared using the Digital Exposure Report-Back Interface (DERBI). Women were interviewed before and after viewing their report. We analyzed differences in website activity, emotional responses, and intentions to participate in future research by report type and race using Wilcoxon rank sum tests, Wilcoxon-Pratt signed ranks tests, and multiple regression.
Results: The personal report group spent approximately twice as much time on their reports as the aggregate group before the post-report-back interview. Among personal-report participants (n=93), 84\% (78) viewed chemical group information for at least one personal result highlighted on their home page; among aggregate-report participants (n=94), 66\% (62) viewed any chemical group page. Both groups reported strong positive feelings (curious, informed, interested, respected) about receiving results before and after report-back and mild negative feelings (helpless, scared, worried). Although most participants remained unworried after report-back, worry increased by a small amount in both groups. Among Black participants, higher post report-back worry was associated with having high levels of chemicals.
Conclusions: Participants were motivated by their personal results to access online information about chemical sources and potential health effects. Report-back was associated with a small increase in worry, which could motivate appropriate action. Personal report-back increased engagement with exposure reports among Black participants.

Available Versions

Citation Information

Julia Green Brody, Piera M Cirillo, Katherine E Boronow, Laurie Havas, Marj Plumb, Herbert P Susmann, Krzysztof Z Gajos, and Barbara A Cohn. Outcomes from returning individual versus only study-wide biomonitoring results in an environmental exposure study using the digital exposure report-back interface (DERBI). Environmental health perspectives, 129(11):117005, 2021.