Consortium to perform human biomonitoring on a European Scale
human biomonitoring for europe
a harmonized approach is feasible
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Frequently Asked Questions

Some of the most commonly asked questions can be found here. This section will be updated with further questions and answers in the future.




What is COPHES?

COPHES stands for ‘COnsortium to Perform Human biomonitoring on a European scale. The aim of COPHES is to design harmonised procedures for human biomonitoring studies so that results from studies performed across Europe are more comparable. COPHES was launched in 2009 and is funded by the European Community's Seventh Framework Programme (DG Research - Grant Agreement Number 244237).


DEMOCOPHES  stands for  ‘DEMOnstration of a study to COordinate and Perform Human biomonitoring on a European Scale’. DEMOCOPHES aims to test procedures developed by COPHES the feasibility of a coherent approach to Human Biomonitoring (HBM) in Europe. DEMOCOPHES is a project funded under LIFE+ 2009 (DG Environment - LIFE09 ENV/BE/000410). The consortium comprises 18 European Member States and Switzerland, Norway and Croatia. 

The DEMOCOPHES pilot study will look at biomarkers for mercury, cadmium, phthalates as well as environmental tobacco smoke in human hair and urine. The project will collect samples and data from 120 child-mother pairs in each participating country. 

What is human biomonitoring?

People are exposed to many natural and man-made chemicals every day. Biomonitoring is the ‘assessment of human exposure to environmental chemicals using body fluids (for example blood or urine) or hair’.  This information provides a picture of the amount of a chemical actually absorbed into the body. Exposure to such chemicals does not necessarily result in ill health but it is important to understand how people are exposed and to what extent. 

Biomonitoring studies are also useful to evaluate health policies and development of legislative measures applied to reduce pollution. One example is that of the introduction of unleaded petrol after scientific evidence showed that lead caused adverse effects on the developing nervous system. The consequence of this measure has been the rapid decline of lead levels in the general population. 

 Why are you measuring these chemicals?

 DEMOCOPHES will look at biomarkers for mercury, cadmium, phthalates as well as environmental tobacco smoke in human hair and urine. These chemicals were chosen because it is important to understand how much we are exposed to these chemicals in our daily lives. The information can help us understand patterns of exposure and where necessary reduce exposure. 

  • Cotinine – when Nicotine is inhaled through cigarette smoke is metabolised to cotinine.  Cotinine levels in urine are a marker of how much cigarette smoke someone has been exposed to. 
  • Mercury is a natural metal and is used in small quantities in dental fillings, energy saving light bulbs and was in the past used in thermometers. Mercury is also a contaminant found in seafood. 
  • Cadmium is a naturally occurring metal, which is used in batteries and in some paints.  Cadmium can be found as a contaminant in some shellfish and in cigarette smoke.  
  • Phthalates are a group of compounds widely used in the manufacture of plastics. Because of this extensive use we are exposed to many phthalates. 
  • Bisphenol-A (BPA) - Some countries will also measure Bisphenol-A (BPA), which is an organic chemical used in the manufacture of polycarbonate plastics.  Plastics when washed with harsh detergents or heated may release BPA.  BPA has been banned in baby feeding bottles but it is still used in plastic lining on food cans and many other plastic articles.


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  Dr. Reinhard Joas BiPRO GmbH, Munich, Germany
  Dr. Ludwine Casteleyn, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium
  Dr. Anke Joas BiPRO GmbH, Munich, Germany