In our daily lives, we are constantly exposed to chemical substances. Thanks to human biomonitoring (HBM), we can assess whether and to what extent these substances enter our bodies. By measuring the concentration of chemicals in body fluids or tissues, biomonitoring can provide valuable information on environmental health effects and, in some cases, help address potential health risks. Read more about human biomonitoring.
COPHES: the harmonised approach
After 3 years of work, COPHES and the feasibility study DEMOCOPHES have been able to demonstrate that a more coordinated and harmonised approach to HBM in Europe is possible and can become an important tool to monitor the exposure of Europeans to chemical substances and address potential health effects that may derive from it.
How did it all start?
In 2009, European scientists and stakeholders from 35 institutions in 27 European countries began work towards setting up a European-wide human biomonitoring framework. Funded by the EU's Seventh Framework Programme, COPHES developed harmonised protocols allowing the collection of comparable HBM data throughout Europe. Its twin project, the feasibility study DEMOCOPHES, was launched one year later to test this hypothesis and to win information on levels and major determinants of exposure in Europe, as well as to establish protocols for the translation of HBM results into concrete policy recommendations.
What have we achieved?
The study measured biomarkers for mercury, cadmium, phthalates, bisphenol A as well as environmental tobacco smoke in human hair and urine from around 120 mother-child pairs in the 17 participating countries, in total almost 4000 samples. This is the first time that we have information on the distribution of chemicals in 17 EU countries which are comparable between the countries and with international data.
The next steps
COPHES/DEMOCOPHES results demonstrate that harmonisation is possible but further capacity building is needed to establish the networks and infrastructure in EU countries. These results are the first step towards EU-wide databases on the distribution of the chemical burden in the population, which will allow to follow levels in the population and evaluate the effectiveness of regulatory measures such as a ban on certain chemicals or smoking regulations. At the same time, improved comparability of European HBM data in the future will allow cross boundary evaluation of gradients in human exposure throughout Europe and it will facilitate the elaboration of guidance values and the identification of potential high exposure populations or subpopulations and may help to target measures.
Last update: 03 December 2012