Pilot phase concluded successfully
The Federal Environment Ministry (BMU) and the German chemical industry association (VCI) are continuing with their cooperation project on developing human biomonitoring which was started in 2010. The continuation is the result of a joint evaluation of the project's three-year pilot phase that was concluded in February 2013. The aim of the cooperation is to improve knowledge about chemical substances that enter human bodies. The most important goal is to develop new methods for analysing substances that cannot be detected or measured in bodies at present.
So far, new methods have been developed regarding the substances DINCH, DPHP and MDI, and these methods are being validated by the German Research Foundation. Consumers come in direct contact with these three substances as they are components of plasticisers and one component foam, which is used to steady and seal doors and windows. The new measuring methods are now being applied in suitable studies regarding the general public.
Alongside these activities, the cooperation partners are also continuing their work on detection techniques for other substances. For this year, the BMU and the VCI have determined five additional substances for which a measuring method is to be developed. A circle of experts from research, industry and the relevant authorities are accompanying the selection process.
The substances in question are di(2-ethylhexyl) terephthalate (DEHTP), tris(2-ethylhexyl) trimellitate (TOTM), alkylsulphonic phenyl ester (ASE), 2,6-Di-tert-butyl-p-cresol (BHT) and octyl methoxycinnamate (OMC). They are used as substitutes for phthalates, plasticisers, antioxidants and UV filters.
The BMU and VCI are focusing their human biomonitoring cooperation on substances that might be taken in by the population in larger amounts or which might be of special relevance to human health, but which up to now could not be detected in human tissue. Analysis methods for up to fifty jointly selected substances or substance groups are to be developed by 2020.
The VCI has taken on the responsibility for developing the specific detection methods. Applying the methods in suitable studies is the responsibility of the BMU in close cooperation with the Federal Environment Agency (UBA).
Developing methods for analysis is complex and expensive. However, if in the coming years new analysis methods are successfully developed for up to 50 substances, this will substantially increase knowledge of the real exposure of the population to important industrial chemicals. Up to now, model assessments had to serve as a basis far too often, which can easily lead to over- or underestimating health hazards.
For health-related environmental protection, human biomonitoring is a key information and monitoring instrument. The data thus obtained can serve as an early warning system for previously unrecognised exposures. In order to determine whether the detection of a substance also means that it will have detrimental effects on human health, a risk assessment has to be carried out which includes medical and toxicological findings. These assessments are undertaken by the Human Biomonitoring Commission at the Federal Environment Agency. In addition, human biomonitoring also provides scientific data on whether bans or restrictions on substances of concern have actually led to a decrease in population exposure.
Human biomonitoring is a major instrument of prevention in occupational health and safety in the chemical industry. The VCI has been working in this field for many years and now contributes these experiences to joint activities with the BMU. With this commitment, the chemical industry underlines the great importance of product safety under the chemical industry's "Responsible Care" programme.