UBA heads the set-up of an European Human Biomonitoring system

a blood sample is taken from a womanClick to enlarge
Human biomonitoring detects pollutants in the human organism
Source: Guido Grochowski / Fotolia.com

The EU Commission is providing funding worth more than 74 million euros to the “European Human Biomonitoring Initiative – HBM4EU” project to harmonize and align the database on human biomonitoring in the EU Member States and to enhance our understanding of the health impact of exposure to pollution. The aim is to consolidate existing data and to implement joint research projects.

The UBA assumed management of the consortium which consists of 107 partners from 26 mostly European countries. The HBM4EU project focuses on the establishment of a pan-European network which will improve the knowledge base for environmental and chemical policy decision-making in the EU. Empirical data and study findings will be incorporated into European environmental and health policy and thus improve them in a targeted manner. The 7th EU Environment Action Programme explicitly requires the continued coordination of HBM.

The EU Commission has supported research projects to establish a standardized human biomonitoring system in Europe for a number of years. UBA has been an active participant in these EU projects, for example in COPHES (2009-2012) and DEMOCOPHES (2011/2012), the first EU-wide pilot study to measure four exemplary pollutants in 17 European countries. The studies traced mercury, cadmium, cotinine and phthalates in the hair and urine samples of children ages 6-11 and their mothers and recorded exposure data. The EU Member States have classified some phthalates (DEHP, DnBP, DiBP and BBP) as toxic to the reproductive system. These substances may now only be used in exceptional cases and with a special permit. There are on-going proceedings which aim to impose a complete ban on their use.

The HBM4EU project also envisions stakeholder involvement via a special forum at EU level to gather input and ideas for future work and prioritization. Stakeholders are also to become involved at national level. 

The President of the German Environment Agency, Maria Krautzberger, attended the signing ceremony for the HBM4EU project in Brussels. She spoke out in favour of sharing knowledge about the sources and risks of chemicals at European level so that risks can be identified in good time. Germany is helping in the effort: The German Environmental Survey on Health (GerES) is the largest and most comprehensive study on the exposure of the population to pollution not only in Germany, but in all of Europe. The individual surveys conducted by the German Environment Agency regularly check which potentially harmful substances and environmental influences (e.g. chemicals, noise) Germany’s population comes into contact with. The data collected provide the basis for developing effective measures to reduce the public’s exposure to pollution in Germany.