For further questions please contact BiPRO.
What is Human Biomonitoring?
Human Biomonitoring is a scientific technique for assessing human
exposures to environmental agents and their effects, based on sampling
and analysis of an individualīs tissues and fluids. While blood, urine,
breast milk and expelled air are most commonly measured, hair, nails,
fat, bone and other tissues may also be sampled. This technique takes
advantage of the knowledge that environmental agents that have entered
the human body leave markers reflecting this exposure. The marker may
be the agentl itself or a breakdown product, but it may also be some
change in the body resulting from the interaction of the agent or its
breakdown product(s) with the individual, such as alterations in the
levels of certain enzymes or other proteins which may lead to modifications
of normal body processes.
How is a Human Biomonitoring study conducted?
The process of Human Biomonitoring involves three main
issues: selecting who will be monitored, as well as when and where, collecting
tissue and/or fluid samples, and deciding which environmental pollutants
to study and analyzing those environmental pollutants in the samples that
are collected. This is a complex and expensive process, especially if
the goal is to obtain results that reflect how body levels vary by age,
sex, ethnic group, geographical location, and state of health of the individual.
It also includes data interpretation and translation of HBM results to develop political
strategies in various ways:
- biomonitoring can have an early warning function and can highlight the need to develop
new political strategies on a European scale
- biomonitoring can give an indication on different importance of sources, exposure, regional
and geographic aspects etc. Considering this information might lead to adaptations of existing political strategies
- existing political strategies can be evaluated and assessed with results of human
- the harmonised procedure that will be developed will save resources on a European scale.
This will influence political strategies of resource allocation
Why is a coordinated European HBM approach needed?
In different Member States a substantial number of biomonitoring surveillance and research
projects are running and significant resources are actually expended and main deficiencies of the present situation
have been determined:
- pollution is a transborder phenomenon and has to be evaluated regionally.
This project will enable plasticity in merging of databases in order
to elevate biomonitoring from national to international level
- numerous ongoing activities are often country specific surveillance activities and sometimes specific
biomonitoring research activities and thus not easily comparable
- currently there is no overall inventory of ongoing activities within Europe or even the registration of specific
key data for such an inventory of monitoring activities
- important actual surveillance or research projects (e.g. children cancer registers and miscarriage registers) do
not cover all regions of Member States
- there is no or insufficient coordination between research and surveillance
projects; a European approach with standardisation of monitoring strategies,
research and selection of appropriate indicators, their link to environmental
and health data, communication of results, etc. is completely lacking.
Furthermore internationally available information is not sufficiently
taken into account due to lack of common forum for exchange of knowledge,
- as a consequence synergies concerning financial aspects and standards for optimal biomonitoring can not be
realised and available information is not adequately exploited
Coordination of the ongoing biomonitoring activities (with special focus on validated
methods) in Europe will generally promote to achieve the objectives of
the EU Environment and Health Action Plan. In particular it will improve
data comparability between countries and will allow a better integration
of information by bringing together available knowledge and by actively
promoting exchange of experiences between teams and countries. It will
also enable a more effective use of resources through shared development
of tools and strategies. In particular, efficient networking will significantly
enhance the current state of the art due to the following reasons:
- to ensure better data comparability and accessibility within and between countries in order to develop more
targeted and more cost-efficient EU environment and health policies;
- to ensure a better integration of information by bringing together available knowledge and actively promoting
exchange of experiences between teams and countries (capacity building), which will enable a more effective
use of resources by shared development of tools and strategies;
- to detect areas or population groups subject to elevated exposure and - by envisaging appropriate control
measures - to better environmental equity
Why is a European Pilot Project needed?
Given the complexity of the issues a STEP-BY-STEP approach has been set up:
The first step (2004-2006) consists of (1) developing comparable protocols addressing initiation, performance and
follow-up of HBM activities, and harmonised data treatment; (2) developing appropriate tools for translation of HBM
results into intervention strategies, including scenarios to integrate HBM results with environmental monitoring and
health monitoring data; (3) developing appropriate tools for effective communication with policymakers and the public.
The second step (2006-..) is the EUROPEAN PILOT PROJECT, which is a "learning by doing tool". It aims to test out the
developed coordinated approaches and to facilitate the establishment of collaboration networks and the sharing of
methodologies. Furthermore, it will help to promote the idea of coordinating HBM activities on European level.
Are Member States obliged to participate in the European Pilot Project?
There is no obligation for Member States to participate
in the EU approach nor in the pilot project. However a broad Member States participation
is seen as an advantage for the European approach of Biomonitoring and all Member States have
up to now supported action 3 of the AP.
Will stakeholders be involved in the process?
Yes, they are involved via the Consultative Forum.