A systematic approach for designing a HBM Pilot Study for Europe

Kerstin Becker*, Margarete Seiwert, Ludwine Casteleyn, Reinhard Joas, Anke Joas, Pierre Biot, Dominique Aerts, Argelia Castaño, Marta Esteban, Jürgen Angerer, Holger M. Koch, Greet Schoeters, Elly Den Hond, Ovnair Sepai, Karen Exley, Lisbeth E. Knudsen, Milena Horvat, Louis Bloemen, Marike Kolossa-Gehring

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Citations (Scopus)


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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)312-322
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health
Issue number2-3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2014

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We wish to thank the European Commission, DG for Research and Innovation (RTD), who funded COPHES in the 7th Framework Programme (DG Research – No. 244237) and DG Environment , who co-funded DEMOCOPHES under the LIFE+ Programme (DG Environment-Life09 ENV/BE000410) together with the participating countries. We would also like to thank all COPHES and DEMOCOPHES project partners and all ministries and institutions from the DEMOCOPHES countries, other research groups from the European Member States, other European institutions and institutions worldwide that supported COPHES with information and experience. Updated information on the projects can be found on the project website http://www.eu-hbm.info/ .


  • EU
  • Fieldwork
  • HBM
  • Harmonisation
  • Study design


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