Federal Environment Ministry and German Chemical Industry Association set new targets for human biomonitoring

The Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB), the Federal Environment Agency (UBA) and the German Chemical Industry Association e. V. (VCI) are working together to develop new human biomonitoring (HBM) methods for substances of interest which allow for measuring chemicals in the human body. Emphasis is placed on substances either with potential health relevance or for which an exposure of the general population can be assumed. Analytical methods for up to fifty selected substances or substance groups are to be developed by 2020. Human-biomonitoring (HBM) provides reliable scientific data about the internal exposure of the human body to chemicals. Additionally, HBM studies reveal whether there are subgroups of the population that are particularly exposed and whether regulations on chemicals have led to the desired decrease in exposure or whether further risk reduction measures are needed.

The substances selected for 2014 are DEHA/DOA, DINA, octocrylene und lysmeral – two plasticisers, a UV filter and an aroma ingredient. The choice of substances is based on recommendations by a high-level group of experts from the scientific and research community, industry and relevant authorities. The final decisions were made by a management committee which includes representatives from industry, the Ministry of the Environment and the Federal Environment Agency.

The attempt to find appropriate detection methods for some of the substances chosen in 2012 (siloxanes D4, D5 und D6) was not successful. Even though significant effort was spent, it was not possible to develop an appropriate and sufficiently sensitive HBM method. Instead of siloxanes, a first-ever specific detection method for the chemical TDI is to be developed. TDI plays an important role in the production of adhesives and foam materials. The cooperation partners reaffirmed the project's ambitious goal of developing the first detection methods for up to 50 currently relevant chemicals by 2020.

Since 2010, a total of seven new methods for chemicals such as DINCH, DPHP and MDI have been developed. New HBM methods for two further substances are expected in the near future. These new analytical methods are cross-validated by the working group ‘Analyses in biological Materials’ of the German Research Foundation (DFG), an independent body of experts. All substances chosen for the project are used close to consumers as softeners in plastics, UV filters in cosmetics, as solvents and as fire retardants.

In order to collect data on the internal exposure of the general population and its change over time, the new analytical methods will now be applied in the two main German Human Biomonitoring studies, the fifth German Environmental Survey (GerES V) and the Environmental Specimen Bank (ESB). The German Chemical Industry Association is responsible for developing the specific detection methods and receives support and advice from the expert panel. Applying the methods is the responsibility of the BMUB. The population based HBM studies are conducted in close cooperation and on behalf of the BMUB by the UBA.

The development of analytical methods for as many chemical substances as possible will considerably enhance our knowledge of the exposure of the general population to industrial chemicals. Up to now, assessment models have had to serve as a basis far too often, and they can easily lead to over- or underestimating exposures and associated health risks.

The Human Biomonitoring Commission, an independent group of experts at the UBA, is responsible for assessing the toxicology and health dimensions of the concentrations detected. The work of the commission takes into account that having detected a chemical in the body does not necessarily mean that there is also an impact on health.

07.07.2014 | Press release No. 118/14 | Chemical Safety