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The use of biomarkers in environmental and occupational health has increased from the introduction of the WHO definition in 1993, owing to increasing demands for information about health risks from unfavourable exposures and for biomarkers that provide information about individual integrated loads. Bridging of biomarkers in environmental health and preclinical science is fruitful because the pathways of development and validation are comparable. The introduction of ‘omics’ technology and automatization by high throughput technologies is also common for the two areas of application of biomarkers.

The validation of biomarkers includes measurements of sensitivity and specificity of biomarkers and “round robin” tests to ensure reproducible protocols within different laboratories.

A number of ethical issues arise from the use of biomarkers, with predictive value aimed at respecting the autonomy of the study participants (only upon written informed consent and with ability to withdraw at any time), access to personal information (right to know and right not to know the study result) and securing proper data management (data protection to avoid misuse in employment, insurance, loaning and learning opportunities).

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