Exposure to chemicals in the human body can now be compared for all of Europe

HBM4EU initiative presents assessment values for phthalates, cadmium and bisphenol A – more to follow

Blutprobe im ReagenzglasClick to enlarge
Human biomonitoring traces exposure to pollutants
Source: angellodeco / Fotolia.com

The European Human Biomonitoring Initiative HBM4EU, for which the German Environment Agency (UBA) is lead agency, has issued new human biomonitoring guidance values for select phthalates, cadmium and bisphenol A. This comes as an announcement made at the beginning of the annual meeting in Berlin. UBA's President Maria Krautzberger said: "Chemicals production has risen steadily for years and often causes increased burden in humans. The effects on the environment and human health cannot always be estimated. I am glad that the HBM4EU initiative is paving the way for a better assessment of the human body's exposure to certain environmental pollutants."

The Human Biomonitoring Commission at UBA has derived toxicologically-founded assessment values for select pollutants in Germany for many years. These values enable an estimate of the risk to human health of exposure to environmental pollutants. UBA was able to integrate this experience in the European Human Biomonitoring Initiative, or HBM4EU. The project has now succeeded for the first time in deriving European "Human Biomonitoring Guidance Values" (HBM-GV) for several substances and involving all the partners in Europe. Guidance values are now available for certain plasticisers; others will be generated in the course of the project.

The use and placement of chemicals on the market is regulated at European level, which is why it is important to have comparable and assessable data at EU level. The HBM4EU supports the responsible European institutions and establishes grounds for measures to protect human health and to inform the public about exposure pathways and possible means to prevent exposure.

One aim of the HBM4EU initiative is to improve data management at European level and has now succeeded in pooling a comprehensive set of HBM data at that level. The metadata from 94 HBM studies and 37 harmonised datasets are available for seven priority substances (relevant for policy-making). These substances include aniline, bisphenols, cadmium and chromium VI, flame retardants, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), per- and polyfluorinated chemicals, phthalates and Hexamoll® DINCH. The collection of data is also used to point out gaps in knowledge so that new harmonised data can be collected. The objective is to generate further robust data on exposure for the purpose of providing advice to policy-makers.

Further information:

The partners of the HBM4EU initiative discussed the future of European human biomonitoring at a conference on 7-11 October 2019. The EU Member States had expressed support for a continuation of the HBM4EU initiative at the Environment Council in June 2019, requesting the EU Commission to continue funding for human biomonitoring activities in Europe under the new EU "Horizon 2020" Research Framework Programme starting 2022.

Human biomonitoring - in brief

Human biomonitoring is a tool for environmental observation related to human health. Human biomonitoring examines human body fluids or tissue for their exposure to pollutants. These tests of representative groups among the population or in certain occupational groups enable the assessment of the body burden from various sources (respiratory air, food, everyday objects).


The European Human Biomonitoring Initiative (HBM4EU) is a project within the framework of the EU Commission's Horizon 2020. With a total funding volume of about 74 million euros involving 15 partners from 28 countries (24 EU Member States, Norway, Iceland, Israel and Switzerland), this project was launched in early 2017 by the Federal Environment Agency and runs until the end of 2021. The main aim of the initiative is to record data about exposure of the population to select substances. The data will provide science-based advice to policy makers on issues of chemical safety and environmental protection. Other objectives of the initiative are to harmonise the necessary processes in the participating countries and develop detection methods.

The HBM4EU project is funded under the grant agreement Nr. 733032 of the Research and Innovations Programme of Horizon 2020.

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