Challenges to evidence synthesis and identification of data gaps in human biomonitoring

Ana Virgolino*, Osvaldo Santos, Joana Costa, Mónica Fialho, Ivo Iavicoli, Tiina Santonen, Hanna Tolonen, Evangelia Samoli, Klea Katsouyanni, Georgios Baltatzis, Flavia Ruggieri, Annalisa Abballe, Ida Petrovičová, Branislav Kolena, Miroslava Šidlovská, Carla Ancona, Ivan Eržen, Ovnair Sepai, Argelia Castaño, Marike Kolossa-GehringUlrike Fiddicke

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The increasing number of human biomonitoring (HBM) studies undertaken in recent decades has brought to light the need to harmonise procedures along all phases of the study, including sampling, data collection and analytical methods to allow data comparability. The first steps towards harmonisation are the identification and collation of HBM methodological information of existing studies and data gaps. Systematic literature reviews and meta-analyses have been traditionally put at the top of the hierarchy of evidence, being increasingly applied to map available evidence on health risks linked to exposure to chemicals. However, these methods mainly capture peer-reviewed articles, failing to comprehensively identify other important, unpublished sources of information that are pivotal to gather a complete map of the produced evidence in the area of HBM. Within the framework of the European Human Biomonitoring Initiative (HBM4EU) initiative—a project that joins 30 countries, 29 from Europe plus Israel, the European Environment Agency and the European Commission—a comprehensive work of data triangulation has been made to identify existing HBM studies and data gaps across countries within the consortium. The use of documentary analysis together with an up-to-date platform to fulfil this need and its implications for research and practice are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2830
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2 Mar 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.


  • Data triangulation
  • Environmental health
  • HBM4EU
  • Harmonisation procedures
  • Human biomonitoring


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