Human Biomonitoring is a method of examination where one ‘measures inside the human body’. People are exposed to polluting substances in the environment, in their homes, in their nutrition, etc. With human biomonitoring, urine, hair, blood, saliva, mother’s milk, nails, fat tissue, sperm cells or other tissues are examined so as to verify which quantities of some chemical substances are present in the body and to establish a relation with the way of life and eating habits. Biomonitoring exposure markers provide information on our exposure to chemical substances and effect markers provide information on the consequences of the presence of these chemical substances in our body on our health.
DEMOCOPHES is a European LIFE+ project where 17 countries test whether a biomonitoring program for the European Union is feasible. Belgium is one of these 17 countries. The FPS Health, Food Chain Safety and Environment, is coordinator of this project, both at the national and the international level. All participating countries have applied as much as possible the same procedures, so as to obtain comparable human biomonitoring data, which can be used within the framework of the government policy. Concretely, in each country 120 children (6-11 years of age) and their mothers voluntarily provided hair and urine samples and answered questions concerning their way of life and eating habits. Subsequently, selected laboratories measured mercury in the hair samples and cadmium, cotinine, phthalates and bisphenol A in the urine samples. You will find the results at the European level of this LIFE+ project in a conveniently arranged brochure. An extensive technical report is also available.
In the course of the coming months, the most important results will be published in scientific magazines. They will also be discussed within the framework of the commitments with the World Health Organization as part of the Parma Conference.
Now that DEMOCOPHES has proven the feasibility of a harmonised approach, policy makers are working at a more extensive program at the European level, where they will consider the lessons and results from the project.
The Federal Government, the Communities and the Regions together carried out the Belgian part of DEMOCOPHES within the scope of the National Environmental Health Action Plan (NEHAP).
In the section ‘Human Biomonitoring’ on the website www.nehap.be you will learn everything on the method of examination human biomonitoring and concerning the course and the results of the project DEMOCOPHES in Belgium. These results are also summarized in a brochure (only exists in French and Dutch).
In this, two matters stand out:
1. In general, it is evident from the resultants of DEMOCOPHES that the young children (6-8 years of age), are more exposed than the somewhat older children (9-11 years of age), which shows that the policy must pay particular attention to younger children.
2. The measured biomarker values with the Belgian volunteers are lower than the health guide values used in DEMOCOPHES. Yet, the concentrations of mercury and some phthalate markers with the Belgian participants are higher than the averages thereof for the 17 European countries.