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Human biomonitoring (HBM) can be an effective tool to assess human exposure to environmental pollutants and potential health effects and is increasingly seen as an essential element in a strategy aiming to integrate health and environment. In support of the European Environment and Health Action Plan, European scientists and other stakeholders within the European coordination action on human biomonitoring (COPHES/DEMOCOPHES) are working towards a functional framework and standards for a coherent HBM in Europe.

The COPHES consortium, consisting of 35 partners from 27 European countries, aggregates experiences from existing HBM activities, and, taking into account discrepancies related to environmental exposures, national environmental health concerns, analytical capacities, and political and health priorities, developed harmonized approaches and recommendations for better comparability of HBM data in Europe via the elaboration of a harmonized study protocol. Approaches and recommendations comprise raising awareness, guidance on ethics and risk communication, a recruitment strategy, chemical analysis and quality assurance, data treatment, and statistical analysis.

This common pilot study protocol will be tested, adapted and assessed in the framework of the DEMOCOPHES pilot study in 17 European countries, including 16 EU Member States.

COPHES and DEMOCOPHES constitute important steps towards establishing human biomonitoring as a tool for EU environmental and health policy and to improve quantification of exposure of the general European population to existing and emerging pollutants. HBM can be used to determine reference values for exposure, to support policy making by, for example, evaluation of policy actions aimed at reducing exposure to potentially hazardous environmental stressors at a European level and to promote more comprehensive health impact assessments of policy options.

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