Development of new methods for measuring 50 substances in human body
The Federal Environment Ministry (BMU) and the German Chemical Industry (VCI) are working rigorously to bring their joint human biomonitoring project to fruition. This project has been ongoing since 2010, and is aimed at creating new methods that will allow for more chemicals than before to be measured in the human organism. Under the project, the process of developing new detection methods is to be commenced for 50 relevant substances by 2020. 43 substances have already been selected for the project, including substances from this year. New detection methods have so far been developed for 17 of these substances and work is currently underway on a further 22 methods. Due to analytical problems, method development for a few selected substances has unfortunately not been successful.
The development of methods for the two preservatives 2-phenoxyethanol and bronopol is to start in 2018. These substances are used, for example, in cosmetics, cleaning products and paints. Furthermore, methods are to be developed for homosalate, which is used in cosmetics to protect against UV radiation, and for rose oxide, a fragrance component in perfume oils, washing detergents and cleaning products.
Cooperation between the BMU and VCI is focussing on chemicals for which no suitable measuring methods exist as of yet, but to which the general public is potentially being increasingly exposed to or which may be of particular relevance for human health. The project is supported by a group of renowned experts from research, industry and relevant authorities. At the suggestion of the experts, up to 5 substances are selected each year for which new detection methods are then developed for the first time.
The VCI has taken on responsibility for developing the detection methods. The application of these methods in suitable studies is the responsibility of the BMU, which works on this in close cooperation with the German Environment Agency (UBA). Testing is conducted, for example, in the German Environmental Surveys on Health (GerES) and in the Federal Environmental Specimen Bank (UPB). The new methods are made available worldwide through publication in relevant scientific journals. The findings of the studies on the application of new methods are also published.
Developing analytical methods is a complex and cost-intensive process. The same is true for their application, as reliable studies and quality assurance of their results are expensive and time-consuming.
If in the coming years the range of human biomonitoring instruments is successfully expanded through new methods, this will substantially increase knowledge on the real exposure of the public to widely-used industrial chemicals. To date, it is all too often necessary to resort to model assessments where health risks can be easily over- or underestimated.