Harmonization of Human Biomonitoring Studies in Europe: Characteristics of the HBM4EU-Aligned Studies Participants

Liese Gilles*, Eva Govarts, Laura Rodriguez Martin, Anna Maria Andersson, Brice M.R. Appenzeller, Fabio Barbone, Argelia Castaño, Dries Coertjens, Elly Den Hond, Vazha Dzhedzheia, Ivan Eržen, Marta Esteban López, Lucia Fábelová, Clémence Fillol, Carmen Franken, Hanne Frederiksen, Catherine Gabriel, Line Småstuen Haug, Milena Horvat, Thórhallur Ingi HalldórssonBeata Janasik, Nataša Janev Olcer, Réka Kakucs, Spyros Karakitsios, Andromachi Katsonouri, Jana Klánová, Tina Kold-Jensen, Marike Kolossa-Gehring, Corina Konstantinou, Jani Koponen, Sanna Lignell, Anna Karin Lindroos, Konstantinos C. Makris, Darja Mazej, Bert Morrens, Ľubica Palkovičová Murínová, Sónia Namorado, Susana Pedraza-Diaz, Jasmin Peisker, Nicole Probst-Hensch, Loïc Rambaud, Valentina Rosolen, Enrico Rucic, Maria Rüther, Dimosthenis Sarigiannis, Janja Snoj Tratnik, Arnout Standaert, Lorraine Stewart, Tamás Szigeti, Cathrine Thomsen, Hanna Tolonen, Ása Eiríksdóttir, An Van Nieuwenhuyse, Veerle J. Verheyen, Jelle Vlaanderen, Nina Vogel, Wojciech Wasowicz, Till Weber, Jan Paul Zock, Ovnair Sepai, Greet Schoeters

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Citations (Scopus)


Human biomonitoring has become a pivotal tool for supporting chemicals’ policies. It provides information on real-life human exposures and is increasingly used to prioritize chemicals of health concern and to evaluate the success of chemical policies. Europe has launched the ambitious REACH program in 2007 to improve the protection of human health and the environment. In October 2020 the EU commission published its new chemicals strategy for sustainability towards a toxic-free environment. The European Parliament called upon the commission to collect human biomonitoring data to support chemical’s risk assessment and risk management. This manuscript describes the organization of the first HBM4EU-aligned studies that obtain comparable human biomonitoring (HBM) data of European citizens to monitor their internal exposure to environmental chemicals. The HBM4EU-aligned studies build on existing HBM capacity in Europe by aligning national or regional HBM studies. The HBM4EU-aligned studies focus on three age groups: children, teenagers, and adults. The participants are recruited between 2014 and 2021 in 11 to 12 primary sampling units that are geographically distributed across Europe. Urine samples are collected in all age groups, and blood samples are collected in children and teenagers. Auxiliary information on socio-demographics, lifestyle, health status, environment, and diet is collected using questionnaires. In total, biological samples from 3137 children aged 6–12 years are collected for the analysis of biomarkers for phthalates, HEXAMOLL® DINCH, and flame retardants. Samples from 2950 teenagers aged 12–18 years are collected for the analysis of biomarkers for phthalates, Hexamoll® DINCH, and per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs), and samples from 3522 adults aged 20–39 years are collected for the analysis of cadmium, bisphenols, and metabolites of polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). The children’s group consists of 50.4% boys and 49.5% girls, of which 44.1% live in cities, 29.0% live in towns/suburbs, and 26.8% live in rural areas. The teenagers’ group includes 50.6% girls and 49.4% boys, with 37.7% of residents in cities, 31.2% in towns/suburbs, and 30.2% in rural areas. The adult group consists of 52.6% women and 47.4% men, 71.9% live in cities, 14.2% in towns/suburbs, and only 13.4% live in rural areas. The study population approaches the characteristics of the general European population based on age-matched EUROSTAT EU-28, 2017 data; however, individuals who obtained no to lower educational level (ISCED 0–2) are underrepresented. The data on internal human exposure to priority chemicals from this unique cohort will provide a baseline for Europe’s strategy towards a non-toxic environment and challenges and recommendations to improve the sampling frame for future EU-wide HBM surveys are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Article number6787
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding: The HBM4EU initiative is co-financed under Horizon 2020 (grant agreement No 733032). Additional financial support for the conduct of the studies is provided by each participating country. More information on co-funding of the individual studies is provided in Supplementary Materials, Table S15.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.


  • adults
  • children
  • human biomonitoring
  • joint HBM4EU survey
  • teenagers


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