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Den Hond E.,Flemish Institute for Technological Research | Govarts E.,Flemish Institute for Technological Research | Willems H.,Flemish Institute for Technological Research | Smolders R.,Flemish Institute for Technological Research | And 50 more authors.
Environmental Health Perspectives | Year: 2015

Background: For Europe as a whole, data on internal exposure to environmental chemicals do not yet exist. Characterization of the internal individual chemical environment is expected to enhance understanding of the environmental threats to health. objectives: We developed and applied a harmonized protocol to collect comparable human biomonitoring data all over Europe. Methods: In 17 European countries, we measured mercury in hair and cotinine, phthalate metabolites, and cadmium in urine of 1,844 children (5–11 years of age) and their mothers. Specimens were collected over a 5-month period in 2011–2012. We obtained information on personal characteristics, environment, and lifestyle. We used the resulting database to compare concentrations of exposure biomarkers within Europe, to identify determinants of exposure, and to compare exposure biomarkers with health-based guidelines. Results: Biomarker concentrations showed a wide variability in the European population. However, levels in children and mothers were highly correlated. Most biomarker concentrations were below the health-based guidance values. Conclusions: We have taken the frst steps to assess personal chemical exposures in Europe as a whole. Key success factors were the harmonized protocol development, intensive training and capacity building for feld work, chemical analysis and communication, as well as stringent quality control programs for chemical and data analysis. Our project demonstrates the feasibility of a Europe-wide human biomonitoring framework to support the decision-making process of environmental measures to protect public health. © 2015 (Publisher Name). All rights reserved.


Fiddicke U.,Federal Environment Agency UBA | Becker K.,Federal Environment Agency UBA | Schwedler G.,Federal Environment Agency UBA | Seiwert M.,Federal Environment Agency UBA | And 48 more authors.
Environmental Research | Year: 2015

Within the European Environment and Health Action Plan an initiative to establish a coherent human biomonitoring approach in Europe was started. The project COPHES (COnsortium to Perform Human biomonitoring on a European Scale) developed recommendations for a harmonized conduct of a human biomonitoring (HBM) survey which came into action as the pilot study DEMOCOPHES (DEMOnstration of a study to COordinate and Perform Human biomonitoring on a European Scale). Seventeen European countries conducted a survey with harmonized instruments for, inter alia, recruitment, fieldwork and sampling, in autumn/winter 2011/2012. Based on the countries' experiences of conducting the pilot study, following lessons learnt were compiled: the harmonized fieldwork instruments (basic questionnaire, urine and hair sampling) turned out to be very valuable for future HBM surveys on the European scale. A school approach was favoured by most of the countries to recruit school-aged children according to the established guidelines and country specific experiences. To avoid a low participation rate, intensive communication with the involved institutions and possible participants proved to be necessary. The communication material should also include information on exclusion criteria and offered incentives. Telephone contact to the participants the day before fieldwork during the survey can prevent the forgetting of appointments and first morning urine samples. To achieve comparable results on the European scale, training of interviewers in all issues of recruitment, fieldwork and sampling through information material and training sessions is crucial. A survey involving many European countries needs time for preparation and conduct. Materials for quality control prepared for all steps of recruitment, fieldwork and sampling proved to be important to warrant reliable results. © 2014 Elsevier Inc.


Schindler B.K.,Ruhr University Bochum | Schindler B.K.,PROOF ACS GmbH | Esteban M.,Institute of Health Carlos III ISCIII | Koch H.M.,Ruhr University Bochum | And 51 more authors.
International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health | Year: 2014

COPHES/DEMOCOPHES has its origins in the European Environment and Health Action Plan of 2004 to "develop a coherent approach on human biomonitoring (HBM) in Europe". Within this twin-project it was targeted to collect specimens from 120 mother-child-pairs in each of the 17 participating European countries. These specimens were investigated for six biomarkers (mercury in hair; creatinine, cotinine, cadmium, phthalate metabolites and bisphenol A in urine). The results for mercury in hair are described in a separate paper. Each participating member state was requested to contract laboratories, for capacity building reasons ideally within its borders, carrying out the chemical analyses. To ensure comparability of analytical data a Quality Assurance Unit (QAU) was established which provided the participating laboratories with standard operating procedures (SOP) and with control material. This material was specially prepared from native, non-spiked, pooled urine samples and was tested for homogeneity and stability. Four external quality assessment exercises were carried out. Highly esteemed laboratories from all over the world served as reference laboratories. Web conferences after each external quality assessment exercise functioned as a new and effective tool to improve analytical performance, to build capacity and to educate less experienced laboratories. Of the 38 laboratories participating in the quality assurance exercises 14 laboratories qualified for cadmium, 14 for creatinine, 9 for cotinine, 7 for phthalate metabolites and 5 for bisphenol A in urine. In the last of the four external quality assessment exercises the laboratories that qualified for DEMOCOPHES performed the determinations in urine with relative standard deviations (low/high concentration) of 18.0/2.1% for cotinine, 14.8/5.1% for cadmium, 4.7/3.4% for creatinine. Relative standard deviations for the newly emerging biomarkers were higher, with values between 13.5 and 20.5% for bisphenol A and between 18.9 and 45.3% for the phthalate metabolites. Plausibility control of the HBM results of all participating countries disclosed analytical shortcomings in the determination of Cd when using certain ICP/MS methods. Results were corrected by reanalyzes. The COPHES/DEMOCOPHES project for the first time succeeded in performing a harmonized pan-European HBM project. All data raised have to be regarded as utmost reliable according to the highest international state of the art, since highly renowned laboratories functioned as reference laboratories. The procedure described here, that has shown its success, can be used as a blueprint for future transnational, multicentre HBM projects. © 2013 Elsevier GmbH.


Becker K.,Federal Environment Agency UBA | Seiwert M.,Federal Environment Agency UBA | Casteleyn L.,Catholic University of Leuven | Joas R.,BiPRO GmbH | And 15 more authors.
International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health | Year: 2014

The objective of COPHES (Consortium to Perform Human biomonitoring on a European Scale) was to develop a harmonised approach to conduct human biomonitoring on a European scale. COPHES developed a systematic approach for designing and conducting a pilot study for an EU-wide cross-sectional human biomonitoring (HBM) study and for the implementation of the fieldwork procedures. The approach gave the basis for discussion of the main aspects of study design and conduct, and provided a decision making tool which can be applied to many other studies. Each decision that had to be taken was listed in a table of options with their advantages and disadvantages. Based on this the rationale of the decisions could be explained and be transparent. This was important because an EU-wide HBM study demands openness of all decisions taken to encourage as many countries as possible to participate and accept the initiative undertaken.Based on this approach the following study design was suggested: a cross-sectional study including 120 children aged 6-11 years and their mothers aged up to 45 years from each participating country. For the pilot study the children should be sampled in equal shares in an urban and a rural location. Only healthy children and mothers (no metabolic disturbances) should be included, who have a sufficient knowledge of the local language and have been living at least for 5 years at the sampling location. Occupational exposure should not be an exclusion criterion. Recruitment should be performed via inhabitant registries or schools as an alternative option. Measures suitable to increase the response rate should be applied. Preferably, the families should be visited at home and interviewed face-to-face. Various quality control measures to guarantee a good fieldwork performance were recommended.This comprehensive overview aims to provide scientists, EU officials, partners and stakeholders involved in the EU implementation process full transparency of the work carried out in COPHES. Thus this report presents the discussion and consensus in COPHES on the main aspects of designing and conducting fieldwork of a human biomonitoring study. Furthermore, it provides an example for a systematic approach that may be useful to other research groups or pan-European research initiatives. In the study protocol that will be published elsewhere these aspects are elaborated and additional aspects are covered (Casteleyn et al., 2012). Meanwhile the respective pilot study DEMOCOPHES had been conducted and assessed. The results and lessons learned will be published elsewhere. © 2013 Elsevier GmbH.


Joas R.,BiPRO GmbH | Casteleyn L.,Catholic University of Leuven | Biot P.,FPS Health | Kolossa-Gehring M.,Federal Environment Agency | And 8 more authors.
International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health | Year: 2012

Human biomonitoring (HBM) can be an effective tool to assess human exposure to environmental pollutants and potential health effects and is increasingly seen as an essential element in a strategy when integrating health and environment. HBM can be used (i) to prioritise actions and measures for policy making; (ii) to evaluate policy actions aimed at reducing exposure to potentially hazardous environmental stressors; and (iii) to promote more comprehensive health impact assessments of policy options.In support of the European Environment and Health Action Plan 2004-2010, European scientists, experts from authorities and other stakeholders joined forces to work towards developing a functional framework and standards for a coherent HBM in Europe.Within the European coordination action on human biomonitoring, 35 partners from 27 European countries in the COPHES consortium aggregated their experiences and expertise and developed harmonized approaches and recommendations for better comparability of HBM data in Europe via the elaboration of a harmonized study protocol. This protocol is the product of discussion and compromises on the selection of environmental exposures, national environmental health concerns, and political and health priorities. The harmonised approach includes sampling recruitment, and analytical procedures, communication strategies and biobanking initiatives. The protocols and the harmonised approach are a means to increase acceptance and policy support and to in the future to enable determination of time trends.The common pilot study protocol will shortly be tested, adapted and assessed in the framework of the DEMOCOPHES in 17 European countries, including 16 EU Member States.COPHES and DEMOCOPHES constitute important steps towards establishing human biomonitoring as a tool for EU environmental and health policy and to improve quantification of exposure of the general European population to existing and emerging pollutants. © 2011.


PubMed | Karolinska Institutet, Hainaut Vigilance Sanitaire HVS and Hygiene Publique in Hainaut HPH, Jozef Stefan Institute, Health Service Executive and 20 more.
Type: | Journal: Environmental research | Year: 2015

In 2004 the European Commission and Member States initiated activities towards a harmonized approach for Human Biomonitoring surveys throughout Europe. The main objective was to sustain environmental health policy by building a coherent and sustainable framework and by increasing the comparability of data across countries. A pilot study to test common guidelines for setting up surveys was considered a key step in this process. Through a bottom-up approach that included all stakeholders, a joint study protocol was elaborated. From September 2011 till February 2012, 17 European countries collected data from 1844 mother-child pairs in the frame of DEMOnstration of a study to COordinate and Perform Human Biomonitoring on a European Scale (DEMOCOPHES).(1) Mercury in hair and urinary cadmium and cotinine were selected as biomarkers of exposure covered by sufficient analytical experience. Phthalate metabolites and Bisphenol A in urine were added to take into account increasing public and political awareness for emerging types of contaminants and to test less advanced markers/markers covered by less analytical experience. Extensive efforts towards chemo-analytical comparability were included. The pilot study showed that common approaches can be found in a context of considerable differences with respect to experience and expertize, socio-cultural background, economic situation and national priorities. It also evidenced that comparable Human Biomonitoring results can be obtained in such context. A European network was built, exchanging information, expertize and experiences, and providing training on all aspects of a survey. A key challenge was finding the right balance between a rigid structure allowing maximal comparability and a flexible approach increasing feasibility and capacity building. Next steps in European harmonization in Human Biomonitoring surveys include the establishment of a joint process for prioritization of substances to cover and biomarkers to develop, linking biomonitoring surveys with health examination surveys and with research, and coping with the diverse implementations of EU regulations and international guidelines with respect to ethics and privacy.


PubMed | Public Health England, Institute Salud Carlos III, Flemish Institute for Technological Research, Federal Environment Agency UBA and 7 more.
Type: Journal Article | Journal: International journal of hygiene and environmental health | Year: 2014

The objective of COPHES (Consortium to Perform Human biomonitoring on a European Scale) was to develop a harmonised approach to conduct human biomonitoring on a European scale. COPHES developed a systematic approach for designing and conducting a pilot study for an EU-wide cross-sectional human biomonitoring (HBM) study and for the implementation of the fieldwork procedures. The approach gave the basis for discussion of the main aspects of study design and conduct, and provided a decision making tool which can be applied to many other studies. Each decision that had to be taken was listed in a table of options with their advantages and disadvantages. Based on this the rationale of the decisions could be explained and be transparent. This was important because an EU-wide HBM study demands openness of all decisions taken to encourage as many countries as possible to participate and accept the initiative undertaken. Based on this approach the following study design was suggested: a cross-sectional study including 120 children aged 6-11 years and their mothers aged up to 45 years from each participating country. For the pilot study the children should be sampled in equal shares in an urban and a rural location. Only healthy children and mothers (no metabolic disturbances) should be included, who have a sufficient knowledge of the local language and have been living at least for 5 years at the sampling location. Occupational exposure should not be an exclusion criterion. Recruitment should be performed via inhabitant registries or schools as an alternative option. Measures suitable to increase the response rate should be applied. Preferably, the families should be visited at home and interviewed face-to-face. Various quality control measures to guarantee a good fieldwork performance were recommended. This comprehensive overview aims to provide scientists, EU officials, partners and stakeholders involved in the EU implementation process full transparency of the work carried out in COPHES. Thus this report presents the discussion and consensus in COPHES on the main aspects of designing and conducting fieldwork of a human biomonitoring study. Furthermore, it provides an example for a systematic approach that may be useful to other research groups or pan-European research initiatives. In the study protocol that will be published elsewhere these aspects are elaborated and additional aspects are covered (Casteleyn et al., 2012). Meanwhile the respective pilot study DEMOCOPHES had been conducted and assessed. The results and lessons learned will be published elsewhere.


PubMed | Public Health England, Institute Salud Carlos III ISCIII, Flemish Institute for Technological Research, Federal Environment Agency UBA and 7 more.
Type: Journal Article | Journal: Environmental science and pollution research international | Year: 2015

Exposure to a number of environmental chemicals in UK mothers and children has been assessed as part of the European biomonitoring pilot study, Demonstration of a Study to Coordinate and Perform Human Biomonitoring on a European Scale (DEMOCOPHES). For the European-funded project, 17 countries tested the biomonitoring guidelines and protocols developed by COPHES. The results from the pilot study in the UK are presented; 21 school children aged 6-11 years old and their mothers provided hair samples to measure mercury and urine samples, to measure cadmium, cotinine and several phthalate metabolites: mono(2-ethyl-5-hydroxyhexyl)phthalate (5OH-MEHP), mono(2-ethyl-5-oxo-hexyl)phthalate (5oxo-MEHP) and mono(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate (MEHP), mono-ethyl phthalate (MEP), mono-iso-butyl phthalate (MiBP), mono-benzyl phthalate (MBzP) and mono-n-butyl phthalate (MnBP). Questionnaire data was collected on environment, health and lifestyle. Mercury in hair was higher in children who reported frequent consumption of fish (geometric mean 0.35 g/g) compared to those that ate fish less frequently (0.13 g/g, p=0.002). Cadmium accumulates with age as demonstrated by higher levels of urinary cadmium in the mothers (geometric mean 0.24 g/L) than in the children(0.14 g/L). None of the mothers reported being regular smokers, and this was evident with extremely low levels of cotinine measured (maximum value 3.6 g/L in mothers, 2.4 g/L in children). Very low levels of the phthalate metabolites were also measured in both mothers and children (geometric means in mothers: 5OH-MEHP 8.6 g/L, 5oxo-MEHP 5.1 g/L, MEHP 1.2 g/L, MEP 26.8 g/L, MiBP 17.0 g/L, MBzP 1.6 g/L and MnBP 13.5 g/L; and in children: 5OH-MEHP 18.4 g/L, 5oxo-MEHP 11.4 g/L, MEHP 1.4 g/L, MEP 14.3 g/L, MiBP 25.8 g/L, MBzP 3.5 g/L and MnBP 22.6 g/L). All measured biomarker levels were similar to or below population-based reference values published by the US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) and Germanys GerES surveys. No results were above available health guidance values and were of no concern with regards to health. The framework and techniques learnt here will assist with future work on biomonitoring in the UK.


PubMed | Karolinska Institutet, National Institute of Public Health NIPH, Hainaut Vigilance Sanitaire HVS and Hygiene Publique in Hainaut HPH, Jozef Stefan Institute and 22 more.
Type: | Journal: Environmental research | Year: 2015

Within the European Environment and Health Action Plan an initiative to establish a coherent human biomonitoring approach in Europe was started. The project COPHES (COnsortium to Perform Human biomonitoring on a European Scale ) developed recommendations for a harmonized conduct of a human biomonitoring (HBM) survey which came into action as the pilot study DEMOCOPHES (DEMOnstration of a study to COordinate and Perform Human biomonitoring on a European Scale). Seventeen European countries conducted a survey with harmonized instruments for, inter alia, recruitment, fieldwork and sampling, in autumn/winter 2011/2012. Based on the countries experiences of conducting the pilot study, following lessons learnt were compiled: the harmonized fieldwork instruments (basic questionnaire, urine and hair sampling) turned out to be very valuable for future HBM surveys on the European scale. A school approach was favoured by most of the countries to recruit school-aged children according to the established guidelines and country specific experiences. To avoid a low participation rate, intensive communication with the involved institutions and possible participants proved to be necessary. The communication material should also include information on exclusion criteria and offered incentives. Telephone contact to the participants the day before fieldwork during the survey can prevent the forgetting of appointments and first morning urine samples. To achieve comparable results on the European scale, training of interviewers in all issues of recruitment, fieldwork and sampling through information material and training sessions is crucial. A survey involving many European countries needs time for preparation and conduct. Materials for quality control prepared for all steps of recruitment, fieldwork and sampling proved to be important to warrant reliable results.


PubMed | Karolinska Institutet, Jozef Stefan Institute, Public Health Authority of the Slovak Republic, Health Service Executive and 22 more.
Type: | Journal: Environmental research | Year: 2015

A communication strategy was developed by The Consortium to Perform Human Biomonitoring on a European Scale (COPHES), as part of its objectives to develop a framework and protocols to enable the collection of comparable human biomonitoring data throughout Europe. The framework and protocols were tested in the pilot study DEMOCOPHES (Demonstration of a study to Coordinate and Perform Human biomonitoring on a European Scale). The aims of the communication strategy were to raise awareness of human biomonitoring, encourage participation in the study and to communicate the study results and their public health significance. It identified the audiences and key messages, documented the procedure for dissemination of results and was updated as the project progressed. A communication plan listed the tools and materials such as press releases, flyers, recruitment letters and information leaflets required for each audience with a time frame for releasing them. Public insight research was used to evaluate the recruitment material, and the feedback was used to improve the documents. Dissemination of results was coordinated in a step by step approach by the participating countries within DEMOCOPHES, taking into account specific national messages according to the needs of each country. Participants received individual results, unless they refused to be informed, along with guidance on what the results meant. The aggregate results and policy recommendations were then communicated to the general public and stakeholders, followed by dissemination at European level. Several lessons were learnt that may assist other future human biomonitoring studies. Recruitment took longer than anticipated and so social scientists, to help with community engagement, should be part of the research team from the start. As a European study, involving multiple countries, additional considerations were needed for the numerous organisations, different languages, cultures, policies and priorities. Therefore, communication documents should be seen as templates with essential information clearly indicated and the option for each country to tailor the material to reflect these differences. Future studies should consider setting up multidisciplinary networks of medical professionals and communication experts, and holding training workshops to discuss the interpretation of results and risk communication. Publicity and wide dissemination of the results helped to raise awareness of human biomonitoring to the general public, policy makers and other key stakeholders. Effective and timely communication, at all stages of a study, is essential if the potential of human biomonitoring research to improve public health is to be realised.

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