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Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 22, Issue 20, pp 15821–15834 | Cite as

Pilot study testing a European human biomonitoring framework for biomarkers of chemical exposure in children and their mothers: experiences in the UK

  • Karen Exley
  • Dominique Aerts
  • Pierre Biot
  • Ludwine Casteleyn
  • Marike Kolossa-Gehring
  • Gerda Schwedler
  • Argelia Castaño
  • Jürgen Angerer
  • Holger M. Koch
  • Marta Esteban
  • Birgit K. Schindler
  • Greet Schoeters
  • Elly Den Hond
  • Milena Horvat
  • Louis Bloemen
  • Lisbeth E. Knudsen
  • Reinhard Joas
  • Anke Joas
  • Ovnair Sepai
Research Article

Abstract

Exposure to a number of environmental chemicals in UK mothers and children has been assessed as part of the European biomonitoring pilot study, Demonstration of a Study to Coordinate and Perform Human Biomonitoring on a European Scale (DEMOCOPHES). For the European-funded project, 17 countries tested the biomonitoring guidelines and protocols developed by COPHES. The results from the pilot study in the UK are presented; 21 school children aged 6–11 years old and their mothers provided hair samples to measure mercury and urine samples, to measure cadmium, cotinine and several phthalate metabolites: mono(2-ethyl-5-hydroxyhexyl)phthalate (5OH-MEHP), mono(2-ethyl-5-oxo-hexyl)phthalate (5oxo-MEHP) and mono(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate (MEHP), mono-ethyl phthalate (MEP), mono-iso-butyl phthalate (MiBP), mono-benzyl phthalate (MBzP) and mono-n-butyl phthalate (MnBP). Questionnaire data was collected on environment, health and lifestyle. Mercury in hair was higher in children who reported frequent consumption of fish (geometric mean 0.35 μg/g) compared to those that ate fish less frequently (0.13 μg/g, p = 0.002). Cadmium accumulates with age as demonstrated by higher levels of urinary cadmium in the mothers (geometric mean 0.24 μg/L) than in the children(0.14 μg/L). None of the mothers reported being regular smokers, and this was evident with extremely low levels of cotinine measured (maximum value 3.6 μg/L in mothers, 2.4 μg/L in children). Very low levels of the phthalate metabolites were also measured in both mothers and children (geometric means in mothers: 5OH-MEHP 8.6 μg/L, 5oxo-MEHP 5.1 μg/L, MEHP 1.2 μg/L, MEP 26.8 μg/L, MiBP 17.0 μg/L, MBzP 1.6 μg/L and MnBP 13.5 μg/L; and in children: 5OH-MEHP 18.4 μg/L, 5oxo-MEHP 11.4 μg/L, MEHP 1.4 μg/L, MEP 14.3 μg/L, MiBP 25.8 μg/L, MBzP 3.5 μg/L and MnBP 22.6 μg/L). All measured biomarker levels were similar to or below population-based reference values published by the US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) and Germany’s GerES surveys. No results were above available health guidance values and were of no concern with regards to health. The framework and techniques learnt here will assist with future work on biomonitoring in the UK.

Keywords

DEMOCOPHES Biomonitoring Cotinine Mercury Phthalates Cadmium Environmental exposure 

Notes

Acknowledgments

We would like to thank the schools and the mothers and children who agreed to participate in the study. Thank you to the members of staff at Public Health England, including Julie Scott who assisted with the sampling and Gill Fisher for administration assistance, the Health and Safety Laboratory for coordinating the sample analysis, the laboratories that analysed the samples, the coordinators and project partners of COPHES and DEMOCOPHES, the work package leaders of COPHES and their teams. Updated information on the projects can be found on the project website www.eu-hbm.info.

Funding

The UK DEMOCOPHES pilot study was co-funded by the European Commission DG Environment under the LIFE+ Programme (LIFE09/ENV/BE000410) and Public Health England (formerly the Health Protection Agency). DEMOCOPHES is coordinated by the Federal Public Service Health Food Chain Safety and Environment, Belgium. COPHES is coordinated by BiPRO GmbH, Germany, with the University of Leuven, Belgium, and is funded by the European Commission DG Research in the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013 – No.244237).

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Copyright information

© Her Majesty the Queen in Right of United Kingdom 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Karen Exley
    • 1
  • Dominique Aerts
    • 2
  • Pierre Biot
    • 2
  • Ludwine Casteleyn
    • 3
  • Marike Kolossa-Gehring
    • 4
  • Gerda Schwedler
    • 4
  • Argelia Castaño
    • 5
  • Jürgen Angerer
    • 6
  • Holger M. Koch
    • 6
  • Marta Esteban
    • 5
  • Birgit K. Schindler
    • 6
  • Greet Schoeters
    • 7
  • Elly Den Hond
    • 7
  • Milena Horvat
    • 8
  • Louis Bloemen
    • 9
  • Lisbeth E. Knudsen
    • 10
  • Reinhard Joas
    • 11
  • Anke Joas
    • 11
  • Ovnair Sepai
    • 1
  1. 1.Centre for Radiation, Chemical and Environmental HazardsPublic Health EnglandOxfordshireUK
  2. 2.Federal Public Service Health, Food Chain Safety and EnvironmentBrusselsBelgium
  3. 3.University of LeuvenLeuvenBelgium
  4. 4.Federal Environment Agency (UBA)BerlinGermany
  5. 5.Instituto de Salud Carlos III (ISCIII)MadridSpain
  6. 6.Institute for Prevention and Occupational Medicine of the German Social Accident Insurance, Institute of the Ruhr-Universitat Bochum (IPA)BochumGermany
  7. 7.Environmental Risk and Health UnitFlemish Institute for Technological Research (VITO)MolBelgium
  8. 8.Jožef Stefan InstituteLjubljanaSlovenia
  9. 9.Environmental Health Science InternationalHulstNetherlands
  10. 10.University of CopenhagenCopenhagenDenmark
  11. 11.BiPRO GmbHMunichGermany

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