Human biomonitoring (HBM) is an important tool in environmental and occupational medicine and research. It is used to assess and evaluate the internal exposure levels to environmental pollutants of the general population, population subgroups, and individuals. HBM is performed by measuring pollutants in body fluids and body tissues. From these measurements, exposure levels can be determined. For example, the amount of mercury in blood or urine of individuals or population groups. HBM covers all routes of uptake and all relevant sources of exposure. It is an ideal instrument, therefore, for risk assessment and risk management of chemicals.
Germany's Human Biomonitoring Commission
In Germany, in 1992, the Human Biomonitoring Commission of the German Federal Environment Agency was established to develop scientifically based criteria for the application of human biomonitoring (HBM).
The goal of the Commission's work is to clarify fundamental and practical issues related to HBM. The Commission derives two different kinds of values to assess measured pollutants in blood or urine: reference values and human biomonitoring values (HBM I and HBM II values).
Reference values are statistically derived values that indicate the upper margin of background exposure to a given pollutant in a given population at a given time.
Human Biomonitoring Values
HBM-values are derived on the basis of toxicological and epidemiological studies by expert judgment. The Commission has emphasized that the reference values are statistically derived values and do not represent health-based guidance values.
Up to now, the Commission has derived HBM values for lead in blood, for pentachlorophenol in serum and urine, for cadmium in urine, for mercury in blood and urine, and for DEHP (a plasticizer) in urine. Also, to date, the Commission has established reference values for arsenic, cadmium, lead, nickel, mercury, platinum, and PCP in urine or/and blood, and for metabolites of DEHP (5oxo-MEHP, 5OH-MEHP), of organophosphorus (DMP, DMTP, DEP), of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (1-hydroxypyrene), of pyrethroid (cis-Cl2CA, trans-Cl2CA, 3-PBA) in urine, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB’s), for ß-hexachlorocyclohexane (ß-HCH), hexachlorobenzene (HCB) and dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDE) in blood as well as for some polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB) and organochlorine pesticides (ß-HCH, HCB, total DDT) in human milk.
- Human Biomonitoring Commission, German Federal Environment Agency.