Human biomonitoring projects abroad

Many countries have long-established HBM programmes. Recently, newly initiated multidisciplinary follow-up studies called cohorts link human biomonitoring data to health data. 

HBM programmes

Many countries in Europe and North America conduct periodical HBM programmes (e.g. Germany, the Czech Republic, Canada, USA), giving an overview of the substances the population is exposed to.

HBM Germany

Since 1985 the Federal Environmental Agency runs the nationwide and representative German Environmental Surveys (GerES) to analyse the exposure situation of the German population. The fifth survey is actually running and focuses on the exposure of children and teenagers to environmental pollutions.

The data of the surveys provide the base for the Human Biomonitoring Commission to establish reference values (HBM I and HBM II values). The reference value of a chemical in a certain body fluid (e.g. urine, blood) and hence the background exposure will be determined, based on measured results within a defined population, area or country.

HBM Canada

In July 2015, Health Canada published the last Report on Human Biomonitoring of Environmental Chemicals in Canada, which provides the results from the third cycle of the Canadian Health Measures Survey (CHMS). This survey involved approximately 5800 subjects between age 3 and 79 years. Data were collected between 2012 and 2013 at 16 different sites across the country. The Canadian programme runs every second year; the fourth cycle was completed in 2015. The link to the report can be found on this page under ‘Links’.

National cohorts

More and more frequently human biomonitoring is integrated in follow-up health surveys to better understand the long-term impact of a given exposure. Many countries recently implemented multidisciplinary longitudinal studies called cohorts. Those initiatives are often coupled to the creation of biobanks for a standardised conservation and utilisation of the samples. The UK (UK Biobank) and Sweden (LifeGene) have such programmes, while France and Germany are launching their national cohorts. CONSTANCES in France and NaKo in Germany plan to recruit 200’000 volunteers of the general population, periodically undergoing extensive health checks.

Birth cohorts

Some follow-up studies focus in particular on the unborn child. Before and during pregnancy, HBM data may highlight a possible relation between external influences and a child’s development. Such findings could be taken into account for preventive actions.

Two large Birth and Children cohort studies worldwide are summarised below.

Danish National Birth Cohort (DNBC)

Denmark started in 1996 a comprehensive HBM Study to investigate multiple (environmental) influences on the unborn and on the developing child. During and after pregnancy, mothers‘ behaviour influencing exposure (nutrition, environment and more) was recorded using a questionnaire. Additionally, blood samples of the mothers, cord blood at birth and children’s blood samples after birth were analysed for certain substances and substance classes.

Until 2002, the study included 100’000 pregnant women, with a follow-up after 7 and then 11 years.

Japan Environment & Children’s Study (JECS)

The Ministry of the Environment of Japan instigated a birth cohort study with recruitment started in January 2011. The cohort study investigates the influence of foetal exposure to environmental contaminants on health and development of 100’000 children across the country. Additional relevant factors such as social status, family and genetics are also considered. The children will undergo periodical health examination until the age of 13 years.

Last modification 08.08.2018

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