News | The End of HBM4EU

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HBM4EU concludes today

After more than five years, the European Human Biomonitoring initiative comes to an end today. Coordinated by the German Environment Agency, the project comprised 120 partners from 30 participating countries.

The exposure of citizens to chemicals and related health impacts are the focus of public and political concern. Reliable data are the prerequisite on which policies, regulations and information for the general public must be based to safeguard a healthy life in a healthy Europe. Human Biomonitoring (HBM) is a key tool to investigate the exposure of people living in Europe, and to inform regulators and citizens about the extent of the pollution of the human body, the sources and meaningful protective measures. Therefore HBM4EU, a European Joint Programme funded under Horizon 2020, was established with 74 M euros allocated to advance human biomonitoring, produce comparable data and bridge science and policy.

The results of HBM4EU clearly show that the levels of some substances in the human body of the European population are still so high that adverse health effects cannot be excluded according to current knowledge and that there is an urgent need to address mixtures effects in the risk assessment.

HBM4EU has fed results and data into chemical-specific regulatory processes led by the European Commission, the European Chemicals Agency, the European Food Safety Authority, and the Secretariat of the Minamata Convention on Mercury at the United Nations Environment Programme. HBM4EU is also supporting regulatory measures addressing priority substances, such as the ongoing proposal to restrict a wide range of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) under REACH and the recent EFSA draft opinion on Bisphenol A.

Looking forward, HBM4EU results will be used as a baseline against which the success of the EU Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability and Zero Pollution Action Plan will be measured. We have also contributed to shaping the next research agenda for chemicals at the European level – the European Partnership for the Assessment of Risks from Chemicals (PARC).

As the current project concludes, we would like to bring your attention to the materials produced to advance human biomonitoring, raise awareness about chemical exposure and incite additional policy measures to protect European citizens and the environment.




A warm thank you to all the coordinators, partners, coordinators and study participants!

News | HBM4EU Final Conference & Exhibition

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Report from the Final Conference & Exhibition

Held on 27-28th April in Brussels, the Final Conference & Exhibition converged around the topic of "Science and policy for a healthy future." In the course of two days, experts presented results of the project and held discussions on the role of human biomonitoring for chemical policy-making.

The exhibition then, aptly named We live in a chemical world, covered the main conclusions of the project, such as that Europeans are exposed to high levels of hazardous chemical substances.

Through a network of laboratories, the project collected comparable and comprehensive data on the exposure of the EU population to priority chemicals. Urine and/or blood samples from more than 13,000 European citizens from 28 countries were tested. Based on the interpretation of the data, HBM4EU devised recommendations for policymakers, contributing to measuring progress under the Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability and the Zero Pollution Agenda, amongst other policy actions, effectively bridging science and policy.

 “We need a sustainable Human Biomonitoring system for Europe to understand to what extent we are exposed to hazardous chemicals, which chemicals impact health, and how we can protect ourselves”

On the occasion of the conference, participants received a physical copy of an HBM4EU newspaper containing an overview of the project, numerous articles dedicated to the priority substances as well as expert quotes and comments. We are pleased to announce that a digital version is now available. Click here to access it.

Photos & videos from the event are coming soon. In the meantime, read ChemTrust’s summary of the event and key takeaways or watch the videos as featured on the exhibition screens below!

  1. Priority substances
  2. Exposure levels and exceedance values
  3. Health outcomes
  4. Policy messages
  5. Time trends – Phthalates
  6. Peer-reviewed publications
  7. Societal concern
  8. Interviews

News | HBM4EU releases two final policy briefs

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The release of Bisphenols and PFAS policy briefs!

Following the logic of science to policy, HBM4EU has worked on policy briefs for each priority substance in order to provide valuable data to EU policymakers.

Summarizing the adverse human health effects and main exposure pathways for humans, these policy briefs aim to support the development of EU policies regarding chemicals through human biomonitoring.

The key findings for Bisphenols include the risk of internal exposure for adults examined under HBM4EU who have been found to be continuously exposed to BPA. For PFAS, the project has uncovered that the current exposure of parts of the EU population exceeds EFSA guidance values for PFAS exposure. Both discoveries call for wider restrictions and better coordination on the European level.

Access the full policy briefs through the hyperlinks above or at:

News | The research brief on carcinogenicity of chemicals is now available online

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Discover the latest HBM4EU research update

Named 'Priority Substances and Cancer', our latest research brief provides an overview of HBM4EU priority substances and their carcinogenic properties.

Human biomonitoring (HBM) can play a key role in assessing the real-life exposure to carcinogenic chemicals and ultimately in the calculation of increased cancer risk. This application is at the heart of the HBM4EU prioritization strategy and supports EU policies aimed at cancer prevention, such as the Beating Cancer Plan.

“Cancer impacts the lives of millions of Europeans, with well over 3 million new patients diagnosed each year, almost 2 million deaths, and severe consequences for the economy and health systems of EU countries (3,4). About 23 % of cancer cases globally happen in Europe, although it is home to only 9 % of the world’s population (5). In Europe, cancer is the most frequent form of non-communicable disease and the second most common cause of death”

Download the full brief here.

News | Watch our newest video on Pesticides!

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Learn about Pesticides with HBM4EU

It is known that pesticides can cause a variety of adverse health effects. The goal of HBM4EU’s is to provide scientific data to support policies, such as the Farm to Fork Strategy defined under European Green Deal, that will ultimately protect European citizens from chemicals such as pesticides.

Pesticides are intentionally used chemicals to combat pests, like insects, weeds or fungus from harming crops. Pesticides might include insecticides for controlling a wide variety of insects, herbicides for destroying weeds and other unwanted vegetation, nematicides to kill parasitic worms and fungicides to prevent the growth of fungus. Some insecticides are also used as biocides for controlling insects in households. The handling, dilution, mixing and application of pesticides exposes farmers and agricultural workers at the greatest. As consumers, we might get exposed through consumption of pesticide residues in food and, possibly, drinking water. The effects depend on the substance, the dose and the time of exposure.

Find out more by clicking on the preview below or by following this link:

Video made in collaboration with UMIT – Private University for Health Sciences, Medical Informatics and Technology in Austria.

News | Join our online panel of experts on the exposure of pregnant women to mercury

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Insights from HBM4EU-Mom

Can human biomonitoring, combined with fish consumption advice to pregnant women, help control prenatal exposure to mercury?

As part of the on-going preparations for the second segment of the Minamata Convention on Mercury which will be held in Bali at the end of the month, HBM4EU has put together a panel of experts dedicated to the HBM-Mom study which focuses on reducing prenatal exposure to mercury via dietary advice for pregnant women in 5 European coastal countries.

List of speakers:

Dr. Andromachi Katsonouri, Ministry of Health, Cyprus
Dr. Spyros Karakitsios, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece

Dr. Catherine Gabriel, (HBM4EU-MOM in Greece)
Dr Marta Esteban López, (HBM4EU-MOM in Spain)
Dr Þórhallur Ingi Halldórsson, (HBM4EU-MOM in Iceland)
Dr Sónia Namorado, (HBM4EU-MOM in Portugal)
Prof Denis Sarigiannis, Panelist
Argelia Castaño Calvo, Panelist

Register via this link to learn more about the study and join us on Wednesday, 9th of March from 15:3016:30.



News | The new European Human Biomonitoring Dashboard is available online

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Check the European Human Biomonitoring Dashboard

The new European Human Biomonitoring Dashboard is available online

On 30th March 2021, HBM4EU launched the long-awaited European Human Biomonitoring Dashboard. The Dashboard visualises summary statistics from human biomonitoring data collections from all over Europe, gathered under the HBM4EU project, and is publicly accessible on the HBM4EU website. It makes human biomonitoring data accessible to a broader community, allowing users to explore exposure levels and trends in the exposure of European citizens to chemicals.

The data is focused on HBM4EU priority substances, and were gathered through standardised procedures. For each data collection, the dashboard visualizes the percentiles of biomarker levels (P05, P10, P25, P50, P75, P90, P95) and displays information on the limit of detection (LOD) and/or limit of quantification (LOQ). A filter function allows the user to filter biomarker data by subgroups, such as by gender, age and level of educational. Information included in the dashboard currently covers 62 human biomonitoring data collections from 15 countries produced during the period from 1991 to 2019. The Dashboard will be continuously updated and when HBM4EU draws to a close in June 2022, the data from the aligned studies will be incorporated.

The Dashboard can be used to explore available data, as well as to confirm earlier findings. For instance, observed concentrations of perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) in blood (serum/plasma) are generally lower in female compared to male subjects within the same study population. This was already reported in literature, explained by the elimination of PFASs through menstruation, and for mothers also through delivery and lactation [1-9]. This trend can be observed in Figure 1.

Observed concentrations of cadmium in blood are generally higher in smokers compared to non-smokers within the same study population. This association between smoking and higher cadmium levels in blood was already reported in literature [10, 11], and can be observed in Figure 2.

This European Human Biomonitoring Dashboard was developed by the Flemish Institute for Technological Research (VITO). VITO and the whole HBM4EU team gratefully acknowledge the data owners who shared their data, making them widely available for risk assessment and risk management.

If you are interested in integrating aggregated human biomonitoring data from your data collection in the European Human Biomonitoring Dashboard, please contact

Figure 1: Reported distribution (P05-P10-P25-P50-P75-P90-P95) of PFOS levels in blood (µg/L) in studies in Europe between 2000 and 2019, stratified by sex.

Figure 2: Reported distribution (P05-P10-P25-P50-P75-P90-P95) of blood cadmium levels (µg/L) in studies in Europe between 2002 and 2014, stratifies by smoking behaviour.















  1. Colles, A., et al., Perfluorinated substances in the Flemish population (Belgium): Levels and determinants of variability in exposure. Chemosphere, 2020. 242: p. 125250.
  2. Wong, F., et al., Enhanced elimination of perfluorooctane sulfonic acid by menstruating women: evidence from population-based pharmacokinetic modeling. Environ Sci Technol, 2014. 48(15): p. 8807-14.
  3. Brantsaeter, A.L., et al., Determinants of plasma concentrations of perfluoroalkyl substances in pregnant Norwegian women. Environ Int, 2013. 54: p. 74-84.
  4. Lien, G.W., et al., Neonatal-maternal factors and perfluoroalkyl substances in cord blood. Chemosphere, 2013. 92(7): p. 843-850.
  5. Berg, V., et al., Maternal serum concentrations of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances and their predictors in years with reduced production and use. Environ Int, 2014. 69: p. 58-66.
  6. Cariou, R., et al., Perfluoroalkyl acid (PFAA) levels and profiles in breast milk, maternal and cord serum of French women and their newborns. Environ Int, 2015. 84: p. 71-81.
  7. Bjerregaard-Olesen, C., et al., Determinants of serum levels of perfluorinated alkyl acids in Danish pregnant women. Int J Hyg Environ Health, 2016. 219(8): p. 867-875.
  8. Rylander, C., et al., Dietary predictors and plasma concentrations of perfluorinated compounds in a coastal population from northern Norway. J Environ Public Health, 2009. 2009: p. 268219.
  9. Jain, R.B., Contribution of diet and other factors to the levels of selected polyfluorinated compounds: data from NHANES 2003-2008. Int J Hyg Environ Health, 2014. 217(1): p. 52-61.
  10. Adams, S.V. and P.A. Newcomb, Cadmium blood and urine concentrations as measures of exposure: NHANES 1999-2010. J Expo Sci Environ Epidemiol, 2014. 24(2): p. 163-70.
  11. Brockhaus, A., et al., Levels of cadmium and lead in blood in relation to smoking, sex, occupation, and other factors in an adult population of the FRG. Int Arch Occup Environ Health, 1983. 52(2): p. 167-75.


News | Check our latest research brief on the HBM4EU Rapid Response Mechanism

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Learn about the HBM4EU Rapid Response Mechanism (RRM)

HBM4EU has responded to the first urgent request for information for Copper under Rapid Response Mechanism (RRM).

In October 2018, DG Health and Food Safety submitted to HBM4EU an urgent request for information related to Cu compounds as active substances for plant protection products (PPP) via the online Rapid Response Mechanism form. Consortium successfully mobilised and analysed 35 data collections of 13 different countries across Europe, collected from HBM4EU National Hubs or directly from data owners.


Results of HBM4EU

The results come from all of Europe regions including 16 countries from Western Europe, 13 from Southern Europe, 5 from Northern Europe and 1 from Eastern Europe.

According to the provided HBM data the exposure of general population was similar in different countries. Higher levels of copper were identified in very young children who had higher blood Cu levels than new-borns. Women also tend to have higher levels. This can be explained by the fact that blood Cu values are significantly increased by pregnancy, as also by Cu-containing intrauterine contraceptives and post-menopausal hormone therapy.

Higher Cu values were also identified in occupationally exposed workers when compared with the general population. However, this assumption relied on only two datasets and little information is available regarding the type of activities the occupationally exposed volunteers had.


About Rapid Response Mechanism

The HBM4EU Rapid Response Mechanism (RRM) allows policy makers at national and European levels to submit requests for specific information to the HBM4EU Consortium. RRM responds to new and urgent needs for information in the EU policy community and at national level regarding human exposure to chemicals.

Click here to read the Research Brief.

More information on Rapid Response Mechanism.

News | Would you like to stay updated with our latest science findings?

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Subscribe to our HBM4EU Science Digest

It brings bring together the latest science peered reviewed work published under HBM4EU, with direct links to the publications.

To keep the scientific community and other stakeholders interested in our results up to date, you can now subscribe to our monthly newsletter ‘HBM4EU Science Digest’, aiming to bring together the latest science peered reviewed work published, with direct links to the publications.

Read the past newsletters here:

  • Science Digest October
  • Science Digest September
  • Science Digest August
  • Science Digest July
  • Science Digest June

Do not hesitate to share the HBM4EU Science Digest with your peers and to subscribe to the Science Digest Newsletter mailing list. It can also be found in our website at the Results section.

News | 7 new infographics available now on the citizen’s corner section

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Infographics available on the citizen’s corner section

The new infographics are on bisphenol, chromium VI, phthalates, PFAS, acrylamide, mycotoxins and flame retardants.

Helping to digest the highly scientific content for non-technical audiences, such as citizens and also policy-makers, is one of our communication objectives. As part of our efforts to disseminate the scientific work and thus to enhance knowledge translation, new infographics are now available on the citizen’s corner section.

The objective of the infographics is to inform the public about the different substance groups, describe potential risks and highlighting the work of HBM4EU in understanding human exposure using human biomonitoring. At the same time, the infographics include information on the possible sources of exposure for different substance groups, describe how they can enter in our body, describe potential risk and health outcomes and provide recommendations to reduce the exposure to them.

The new infographics are on bisphenol, chromium VI, phthalates, PFAS, acrylamide, mycotoxins and flame retardants.








Example: flame retardants

How can flame retardants enter your body?

Flame retardants are released into the environment during product manufacturing, use, disposal, recycling, and in the event of a fire, when materials and products burn. They can then contaminate the air, water and soil, as well as food grown in contaminated soils. People may be exposed to flame retardants in the following ways.

  • Consuming contaminated food, in particular oily fish, meat, milk and dairy products. Some flame retardants are highly persistent and build up in living organisms, thereby contaminating the food chain.
  • Breastfed infants are exposed to flame retardants that have accumulated in the bodies of their mothers over time and that are then released in the mother’s breastmilk.
  • Accidentally swallowing dust contaminated with flame retardants that have leached from products and furnishing in the household. Young children are more likely to swallow dust when crawling and playing on the floor.

Breathing in flame retardants released from consumer products directly into the air. Flame retardants spread through our indoor spaces as fine particles suspended in air


How might flame retardants affect health?

Growing evidence suggests that some flame retardants can affect the nervous system both pre-birth and during childhood. Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) have been linked to neurotoxicity through disruption of the hormone system, while polybrominated biphenyls have been linked to cancer, immunosuppression and endocrine and reproductive disorders. Both substances are now banned in the European Union.

Many different flame retardants have been used over time, implying that in their daily lives people are exposed to multiple flame retardants at once, along with a variety of other chemical substances. The effects of mixtures of flame retardants on health are not well understood.


How can you reduce your exposure to flame retardants?

If you are concerned, you can take the following steps to reduce your exposure:

  • Wash your hands and those of your children frequently and in particular before eating. Hand-to-mouth contact is one of the principle ways that people swallow flame retardants.
  • Keep dust levels down by:
    • Mopping the floor
    • vacuuming with a high efficiency particulate air filter to remove contaminated dust from your home
    • keeping your home well ventilated
  • Try to purchase and use products that do not contain hazardous flame retardants:
    • when purchasing new upholstered furniture, look for furniture labelled as “Flame Retardant Flame free” or “free of Halogenated Flame Retardants”
    • clothes labelled “keep away from fire” do not contain flame retardants
  • Purchase products made from and filled with natural materials like cotton and wood, instead of polyurethane foam.