Feasibility and usefulness of human biomonitoring for policy making.
Policy makers involvement during the project
In order to increase the visibility on the EU harmonized approach on HBM for policy makers, international conferences were organized back to back with the kick-off meeting in Brussels, with the inception meeting in Budapest as well as with the final meeting in Larnaca. Policy makers were involved in the elaboration of the Council Conclusions obtained in December 2010 during the Belgian Presidency, in the proposition of a letter calling the Commission to set up a EU HBM platform during the Cyprus Presidency and in the ongoing negotiations on the 7th Environment Action Plan.
For information, exchange and preparation of a concept for a sustainable HBM framework in Europe, DEMOCOPHES took part in bilateral contacts arranged with DGSANCO and DGENV as well as in the meetings organized by COPHES. These gathered Commission and European Agencies representatives in Munchen and Brussels and additionally Member States representatives in Paris.
Policy implications of the project
Well-designed HBM programmes are scientific tools that can provide the evidence base to drive policy relevant recommendations. The 4 biomarkers foreseen in the project (mercury, cadmium, cotinine and phthalates) were chosen for their relevance with respect to policy actions. Additionally Bisphenol-A was analysed by 6 DEMOCOPHES countries because ministries requested this and from the interest of knowing the exposure levels to this compound.
Human exposure data have a strong impact on action at both collective and personal level. The national symposia organised in each country provided the opportunity to inform policy-makers and the public and to discuss the relevance of and interest in actions at national level. The broad press attention and the documentary contributed to awareness raising of the general public.
DEMOCOPHES mercury results were used in a publication issued in January 2013. The benefits of controlling mercury pollution were calculated to more than 600 000 IQ points per year and consequently monetary benefits of €8 to 9 billion per year for the entire EU. Exposure abatement requires global-scale cooperation on policies and source reductions, which are currently addressed by the United Nations Environment Programme. The publication was issued a week before the voting on the Mercury Treaty in the United Nations and received a lot of scientific and political attention.
WHO Europe has decided to use the mercury biomarker as one of the indicators, following the Parma Commitments taken in the framework of the Ministerial Conferences on Environment and Health.
In the course of the project, the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) called for data on certain phthalate metabolites and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) for data on BPA in order to re-evaluate their recommendations in the light of new scientific information. DEMOCOPHES results will be available on request for European agencies and related scientific committees in the framework of their reporting or risk assessment activities.
Policy recommendations from the project
With the feasibility of the European harmonised approach being demonstrated, capacity building being achieved and the necessary networks being established, policy-makers could think about developing a more global EU-wide programme, guided by the lessons learned in DEMOCOPHES.
From a policy point of view, further progress is necessary in the development of reliable biomarkers and analytical methods and structures for a long-term European programme to increase the use of HBM in policies like the REACH Regulation, the new biocide Regulation, the POP’s Regulation (2004/850/EC of 29 April 2004 modified), the Directive 2009/128/EC of 21 October 2009 establishing a framework for Community action to achieve the sustainable use of pesticides, regulations on cosmetics, drugs and food, and the Chemical Agents Directive (Directive 98/24/EC).
However, to pave the way forward, Europe needs a structure that will allow for suitable coordination and organisation. This structure could receive a specific mandate and adopt a transparent decision-making strategy with respect to choices to be made for the future implementation of HBM in Europe.