Environmental surveys, specimen bank and health related environmental monitoring in Germany

2012, Journals

Kolossa-Gehring, Marike; Becker, Kerstin; Conrad, André; Schröter-Kermani, Christa; Schulz, Christine; Seiwert, Margarete
International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health 215 (2012), 2, 120-126


Production of chemicals, use of products and consumer goods, contamination of food as well as today's living conditions are related to a substantial exposure of humans to chemicals. Safety of human beings and the environment has to be safeguarded by producers and government. Human biomonitoring (HBM) has proven to be a useful and powerful tool to control human exposure and facilitate risk assessment.

Therefore, the German Federal Environment Agency (Umweltbundesamt, UBA) employs two major HBM tools, the German Environmental Survey (GerES) and the German Environmental Specimen Bank (ESB). GerES is a nationwide population representative study on HBM and external human exposure, which has, inter alia, been used to identify lead in tap water, lead dustfall, time spent in traffic, and age of dwelling as exposure sources for lead and, thus, to derive risk reduction measures. The ESB is a permanent monitoring instrument and an archive for human specimens. Retrospective monitoring of phthalates and bisphenol A provides a continuous historical record of human exposure in Germany, over the last decades. Additionally it revealed that estimations of human exposure based on production and consumption data may supply misleading information on human exposure. HBM data demonstrated that (a) the use if the restricted isomer di-n-butylphthalat decreased while di-i-butylphthalate levels remained constant and (b) human bisphenol A exposure might be overestimated without monitoring data.

The decrease of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon-exposure proves the success of German environmental policy after German re-unification.

In addition to GerES and ESB UBA is involved in different co-operation networks, the two most prominent of which are (1) the harmonization of HBM in Europe (ESBIO; Expert Team to Support Biomonitoring in Europe, COPHES/DEMOCOPHES; Consortium to Perform Human Biomonitoring on a European Scale/Demonstration of a study to Coordinate and Perform Human Biomonitoring on a European Scale) and (2) the co-operation between BMU and the German Chemical Industry Association (VCI). In the latter project emphasis will be placed on substances with a potential relevance for health and on substances to which the general population might potentially be exposed to a considerable extent and for which HBM methods are not available up to now.