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The German human biomonitoring system on a national level consists of two main instruments: the German Environmental Survey and the Environmental Specimen Bank. The German Environmental Survey (GerES) is a nationwide population study which has been carried out repeatedly in Germany since the mid-1980s. Human biomonitoring data are representative for people living in Germany with regard to age, gender and community size. The GerES I for adults was carried out in 1985/1986 (West Germany), followed by GerES IIa in 1990/91 (West Germany) and GerES IIb in 1991/92 (East Germany). In GerES II, the children of participating parents were also included. In 1998, GerES III for adults was conducted in the reunified Germany. GerES IV (2003/2006) focused exclusively on children. To elucidate exposure pathways and thus support the development of measures to reduce exposure, GerES uses three main instruments: human biomonitoring, ambient monitoring, and questionnaires. GerES I–IV have been conducted in close co-operation with the concurrent National Health Interview and Examination Surveys performed by the Robert Koch Institute, Berlin.

The Environmental Specimen Bank (ESB) started routine operation in 1985. Human specimens are taken annually from students at four German university towns, archived as individual samples, and stored at temperatures below –150 °C. After more than two decades of operation the ESB now provides a continuous historical record of the state of exposure of humans and the environment in Germany for this period, thus supplying samples for retrospective monitoring of emerging pollutants, and the identification of temporal trends and spatial load differences.

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