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Human biomonitoring results reveal widespread exposure of general public to harmful chemicals

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On 27th and 28th April the final conference of the research project HBM4EU brought together policymakers, scientists, civil society and industry representatives from across Europe to discuss the latest human biomonitoring data on harmful chemicals. The conference had a clear message: a lot more needs to be done to protect the general population from health impacts due to chemical exposure. For many substances, such as the persistent and toxic PFAS chemicals, action is long overdue.

HBM4EU is a joint European research programme coordinated by the German Environment Agency, comprising 116 partner institutions from 30 member countries. Between 2017-2022 HBM4EU established a network of laboratories across Europe to conduct biomonitoring studies, investigated relations between exposure and health and commented on policy questions concerning the regulation of hazardous chemicals. CHEM Trust has been contributing to the project as one of the stakeholder organisations.

Harmful substances found in the European population

HBM4EU assessed and harmonised existing data and coordinated new biomonitoring studies with a focus on 18 priority substances/substance groups, including PFAS, bisphenols, phthalates and flame retardants, and found that the European population is widely exposed.

For example, as presented by Marike Kolossa, coordinator of HBM4EU and Head of Toxicology from the German Environment Agency, data from studies on 10 phthalates and DINCH (a substitute for some phthalates) demonstrated that children and teenagers throughout the EU are exposed to these substances, with metabolites being detected in nearly all samples (see page 48 of HBM4EU conference newspaper).

Results from studies on bisphenol A (BPA) showed that human exposure to the endocrine disrupter BPA is widespread and more actions would be needed to reduce exposure (see page 53 of HBM4EU conference newspaper). In addition, as explained by Robert Barouki, professor of biochemistry at the University of Paris School of Medicin, data on bisphenol S and bisphenol F showed that median levels of urinary BPA alternatives are increasing in all European regions (see page 52 of HBM4EU conference newspaper). This is an indication of ‘regrettable substitution’, where a (partly) regulated substance is replaced by ones of similar concern and is why CHEM Trust and others call for groups of chemicals to be restricted.

Research presented by Maria Uhl from the Environment Agency Austria showed that over 14% of the European teenagers analysed had levels of several PFAS (PFOS + PFHxS + PFOA + PFNA) in their bodies that, when combined, exceeded assumed safe levels set by the European Food Safety Authority (see page 55 of HBM4EU conference newspaper). This means that their health may be harmed by these chemicals. The HBM4EU results on PFAS demonstrate the urgent need to reduce human exposure lev



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