Human biomonitoring projects in Switzerland

Switzerland is launching a pilot phase to assess the feasibility of a nationwide human biomonitoring (HBM) project (cohort study).

Current situation

In May 2017, a report was submitted to the Federal Council on the current situation and outlook for biomonitoring in Switzerland. An initial report, the Federal Council’s response to the parliamentary intervention Moser 08.3223, was published in 2009 and gave an overview of the HBM projects in Switzerland up to that time. The new report takes stock of the current situation and provides an outlook for the future.

Between 2010 and 2012, Switzerland participated in DEMOCOPHES, the first HBM study coordinated at a European level. In each of the 17 participating countries, up to 120 mother-child couples were invited to provide urine and hair samples, which were then analysed for several known chemicals. In addition, the mothers filled in a questionnaire about behaviours and habits relevant for the exposure to these substances.

In Switzerland, some larger studies such as SAPALDIA or CoLaus associate biomonitoring data to clinical data and thorough interviews about life style, dietary habits or socio-economic factors. A regular follow-up of the volunteers can bring to light risk factors and behaviours for known diseases.

However, projects in this area are sporadic, and are limited in duration and scope. They often focus on a specific issue, e.g. the Swiss Transplant Cohort Study (STCS). There is thus no study giving a global and representative picture of exposure to chemical products among the Swiss population.

Towards a national programme?

In close collaboration with academic researchers, the Federal Office of Public health plans to establish a national programme to collect human biomonitoring data as well as health data. This multidisciplinary study would give an overview of the health status, chemical exposure and nutritional status of the general population in Switzerland.

The goal of this programme is not only to provide reference data for the Swiss population but also to better understand the impact of the environment and behaviours on our health, and thus to support health policy.

Pilot phase

The Federal Council report published in May 2017 means that a pilot phase can now be launched. The main objectives of this four-year preparatory phase are to test the feasibility of a national project, to validate the necessary procedures and infrastructures, and to evaluate the willingness of volunteers to participate. In the pilot phase use will be made of the Swiss Biobanking Platform (SBP), a structure set up by the Swiss National Science Foundation for the purposes of scientific research. The pilot phase will be conducted in collaboration with the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute (SwissTPH) in Basel and the Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine (IUMSP) in Lausanne.

Last modification 01.11.2018

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