First steps toward harmonized human biomonitoring in Europe: Demonstration project to perform human biomonitoring on a European scale

Elly Den Hond, Eva Govarts, Hanny Willems, Roel Smolders, Ludwine Casteleyn, Marike Kolossa-Gehring, Gerda Schwedler, Margarete Seiwert, Ulrike Fiddicke, Argelia Castaño, Marta Esteban, Jürgen Angerer, Holger M. Koch, Birgit K. Schindler, Ovnair Sepai, Karen Exley, Louis Bloemen, Milena Horvat, Lisbeth E. Knudsen, Anke JoasReinhard Joas, Pierre Biot, Dominique Aerts, Gudrun Koppen, Andromachi Katsonouri, Adamos Hadjipanayis, Andrea Krskova, Marek Maly, Thit A. Mørck, Peter Rudnai, Szilvia Kozepesy, Maurice Mulcahy, Rory Mannion, Arno C. Gutleb, Marc E. Fischer, Danuta Ligocka, Marek Jakubowski, M. Fátima Reis, Sónia Namorado, Anca Elena Gurzau, Ioana Rodica Lupsa, Katarina Halzlova, Michal Jajcaj, Darja Mazej, Janja Snoj Tratnik, Ana López, Estrella Lopez, Marika Berglund, Kristin Larsson, Andrea Lehmann, Pierre Crettaz, Greet Schoeters*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

129 Citations (Scopus)


Background: For Europe as a whole, data on internal exposure to environmental chemicals do not yet exist. Characterization of the internal individual chemical environment is expected to enhance understanding of the environmental threats to health. objectives: We developed and applied a harmonized protocol to collect comparable human biomonitoring data all over Europe. Methods: In 17 European countries, we measured mercury in hair and cotinine, phthalate metabolites, and cadmium in urine of 1,844 children (5–11 years of age) and their mothers. Specimens were collected over a 5-month period in 2011–2012. We obtained information on personal characteristics, environment, and lifestyle. We used the resulting database to compare concentrations of exposure biomarkers within Europe, to identify determinants of exposure, and to compare exposure biomarkers with health-based guidelines. Results: Biomarker concentrations showed a wide variability in the European population. However, levels in children and mothers were highly correlated. Most biomarker concentrations were below the health-based guidance values. Conclusions: We have taken the frst steps to assess personal chemical exposures in Europe as a whole. Key success factors were the harmonized protocol development, intensive training and capacity building for feld work, chemical analysis and communication, as well as stringent quality control programs for chemical and data analysis. Our project demonstrates the feasibility of a Europe-wide human biomonitoring framework to support the decision-making process of environmental measures to protect public health.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)255-263
Number of pages9
JournalEnvironmental Health Perspectives
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2015

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