Studies of mercury, acrylamide and pesticides exposure

European Human Biomonitoring project HBM4EU directs its focus on nine new substances with possible health effects

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

The human biomonitoring initiative known as HBM4EU was launched nearly one year ago with a funding volume of 74 million euros. Its aim is to gain knowledge of the exposure of the population in the EU to certain substances. The project has now decided to take a closer look at nine new substances including mercury, acrylamide, glyphosate and fipronil. The results of the project research are expected in 2021.

Considerable gaps persist in the knowledge about the exposure of the public to many chemicals and substances as the societal dialogue about the health risks posed by pesticides continues. HBM4EU aims to narrow these gaps and create the basis for science-driven policy making. Up to now the project has focused on nine initial substances and substance groups but will now focus on nine new substances: acrylamide, aprotic solvents, arsenic, diisocyanates, lead, mercury, mycotoxins, pesticides, UV filters.

These substances were selected for a number of reasons, but the bottom line is that they are a potential threat to human health. UV filters (chemical benzophenones), for example, are believed affect the endocrine system. They can be applied through sun lotion directly onto human skin but are also used in textiles to prevent dyes from fading, and can therefore be absorbed through the skin. Aprotic solvents are used to regulate the pH in numerous products such as lubricants, graffiti removers or paints. Several aprotic solvents are considered reprotoxic and are classified as Substances of Very High Concern under ⁠REACH⁠.

The nine substances and substance groups which have been tested so far are: phthalates, bisphenols, cadmium, chromium IV, PFCs, flame retardants, PAHs, anilines, emerging substances, and chemical mixtures.

Several major HBM4EU meetings were held from 24 to 27 September 2018, in addition to the second annual consortium meeting. This was followed by a large European stakeholder conference held in Vienna in the framework of the Austrian EU Council Presidency on the health impact of environmental chemicals. The aim of the conference is to foster the establishment of a permanent HBM programme.

Further information:

Human-Biomonitoring - what it is
As a health-related environmental monitoring tool, human biomonitoring tests human body fluids or tissues for exposure to pollutants.

This type of testing, applied to the largest groups of the public possible or at specific workplaces makes it possible to estimate and evaluate human exposure to pollutants from various sources including ambient air, nutrition or everyday objects.

HBM4EU – in brief
The European Human Biomonitoring Initiative (HBM4EU) is a project under the Horizon 2020 funding programme of the European Commission. With a total funding volume of some 74 million euros and more than 100 partners from 28 countries (24 EU Member States, Norway, Iceland, Israel and Switzerland), the project is headed by the German Environment Agency, kicked off in early 2017, and will run until the end of 2021. The main objectives of the initiative are to compile data on the exposure of the population to certain substances and, where necessary, to generate such data. It will make it easier to provide policy makers with scientifically founded advice on chemical safety and environmental protection. Additional goals include the harmonisation of the required processes in the member countries and the development of new methods to track human exposure to environmental substances.

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 human biomonitoring  HBM4EU