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Review article - Peer-reviewed, 2016

Human Biomonitoring of Environmental Contaminants - Examples Offering Tools Towards Safe Food in Sweden

Weiss, Jana


Introduction: Humans are constantly exposed to a wide variety of environmental contaminants from different sources. The risk assessment of exposure to chemical compounds includes hazard identification, hazard characterization, exposure assessment and risk characterization. Human biomonitoring (HBM), as a method to measure the chemicals or their metabolites in human body fluids and/or tissues, might be used at any stage of risk assessment. However, the most used role of HBM in this process is in the exposure assessment. In order to estimate the body burden of the varied exposure, the Swedish National Food Agency (NFA) applies HBM to complement the traditional calculations based on chemical analyses of the food content and consumers' self-reported food intake, or food purchase statistics.

Aim: To summarize the two main HBM studies performed by the Swedish NFA over the last two decades, i.e. POPUP (Persistent Organic Pollutants in Uppsala Primiparas) and RIKSMATEN (national food survey), and to show how they can give complementary information to improve risk assessment of environmental contaminants.

Results: Levels of a wide range of compounds, including environmental contaminants, have been measured in human samples collected from these studies. These results, collected over a number of years, make it possible to study the general temporal trends for the measured environmental contaminants. Additionally, the identification of exposure determinants and exposure pathways has been conducted by aid of collected data on food consumption and life-style factors, and possible associations have been reported.

Conclusion: Overall, the gained results demonstrate how HBM studies provide important information both on the current state and the temporal trends of human exposure to environmental contaminants. Combined with other imperative data collected, HBM is an important complementary tool for risk assessment of environmental contaminants, which in many cases have diet as main source. Consequently, HBM is important in risk management of these contaminants to implement and follow-up risk reducing or preventive actions within the food sector, as well as to provide an early warning on potential threats to public health.

Published in

European Journal of Nutrition & Food Safety
2016, Volume: 6, number: 3, pages: 132-147

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Public Health, Global Health, Social Medicine and Epidemiology

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