Availability and comparability of human biomonitoring data across Europe: a case-study on blood-lead levels
Faculty of Sciences. Biology
Faculty of Pharmaceutical, Biomedical and Veterinary Sciences . Biomedical Sciences
The science of the total environment. - Amsterdam
, p. 1437-1445
University of Antwerp
Recently, it has become clear that the complexity of environmental health issues requires an approach that takes into account the complexities, interdependencies and uncertainties of the real world. An urgent issue that has surfaced is the need for accurate tools to better describe exposure characterization to environmental chemicals. By including human biomonitoring (HBM) data, a greater precision in exposure and associated risk estimates and more accurate doseresponse relationships may be achieved. A restricting issue still is the availability of reliable and comparable HBM data. The aim of the current study was twofold: (1) to find out whether it is practically feasible to collect raw, individual HBM data across Europe; and (2) to evaluate the comparability and use of these HBM data for environmental health impact assessment at a European scale. Blood-lead (B-Pb) was selected as the chemical of choice because of its long history as an environmental pollutant in HBM programs and its known public health relevance. Through literature search and identification of HBM experts across Europe, HBM programs that measured B-Pb were identified and asked to share individual data on age, gender and B-Pb levels. Following this request, more than 20,000 individual data points from 8 European countries were collected. Analysing these data made clear that it is difficult to use disparate data collections because of the inherent variability with respect to the gender and age of participants and calendar-years sampled. When these confounders were taken however, there was no additional variability in B-Pb distributions among different countries. It was concluded that while it is possible to collect HBM data from different sources across Europe, the need to get data from comparable (sub-)populations is essential for appropriate use and interpretation of HBM data for environmental health impact assessment.