Human biomonitoring data interpretation and ethics; obstacles or surmountable challenges?

Ovnair Sepai, Clare Collier, Birgit Van Tongelen, Ludwine Casteleyn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


The use of human samples to assess environmental exposure and uptake of chemicals is more than an analytical exercise and requires consideration of the utility and interpretation of data as well as due consideration of ethical issues. These aspects are inextricably linked. In 2004 the EC expressed its commitment to the development of a harmonised approach to human biomonitoring (HBM) by including an action in the EU Environment and Health Strategy to develop a Human Biomonitoring Pilot Study. This further underlined the need for interpretation strategies as well as guidance on ethical issues. A workshop held in December 2006 brought together stakeholders from academia, policy makers as well as non-governmental organisations and chemical industry associations to a two day workshop built a mutual understanding of the issues in an open and frank discussion forum. This paper describes the discussion and recommendations from the workshop. The workshop developed key recommendations for a Pan-European HBM Study:. 1. A strategy for the interpretation of human biomonitoring data should be developed. 2. The pilot study should include the development of a strategy to integrate health data and environmental monitoring with human biomonitoring data at national and international levels. 3. Communication strategies should be developed when designing the study and evolve as the study continues. 4. Early communication with stakeholders is essential to achieve maximum efficacy of policy developments and facilitate subsequent monitoring. 5. Member states will have to apply individually for project approval from their National Research Ethics Committees. 6. The study population needs to have sufficient information on the way data will be gathered, interpreted and disseminated and how samples will be stored and used in the future (if biobanking) before they can give informed consent. 7. The participants must be given the option of anonymity. This has an impact on follow-up. 8. The pilot study should develop guidelines and best practice for Ethics for pan European studies. In conclusion all participants felt there that there has to be stakeholder involvement in any planned pan-European Human Biomonitoring Study and the format of the workshop was appropriate for such dialogue.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberS13
JournalEnvironmental Health: A Global Access Science Source
Issue numberSUPPL. 1
Publication statusPublished - 2008


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