Environmental health surveillance in a future European health information system

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


  • Anke Joas
  • Miriam Schöpel
  • Madlen David
  • Maribel Casas
  • Gudrun Koppen
  • Marta Esteban
  • Knudsen, Lisbeth E.
  • Martine Vrijheid
  • Greet Schoeters
  • Argelia Castaño Calvo
  • Gerda Schwedler
  • Marike Kolossa-Gehring
  • Reinhard Joas

Background: To date Health information (HI) in the European Union does not comprise indicators or other information related to impacts of hazardous chemicals in consumer products, food, drinking water or air on the health status of the population. Therefore, we inventorised and evaluated the potential of environmental health surveillance and research data sources in the European population to provide HBM-based indicators of internal human exposure and health impact of relevant chemicals.

Methods: We established an up-dated inventory of European cross-sectional Human Biomonitoring (HBM) surveys and of birth cohorts, and compared chemicals and chemical groups addressed by HBM with indicators and health end points collected via European Core Health Indicators (ECHI), in birth registries, as well as in environmental and food data bases and health registries to see on how data collection could be aligned. Finally, we investigated study designs of HBM survey and health examination surveys for potential synergies.

Results: The inventory covers a total of 11 European cross-sectional national programmes and a large number of birth cohorts and includes information on study population, age groups, covered substances, sampled matrices, and frequency. The comparison of data collections shows that there are many overlaps between environmental chemicals with environmental and health reporting. HBM data could be linked with ECHI indicators for work-related risks, body mass index (BMI), and low birth weight, with perinatal disease, neurologic disorders, and some chronic diseases, or with data bases for e.g. indoor air, food, or consumer products. Existing initiatives to link data collections at European Environment Agency (EEA) and Joint Research Center (JRC) or at World Health Organization (WHO) are good options to further develop linkage of HBM with exposures sources and health end points.

Conclusions: There is potential to use HBM based information in a number of public health policies, and this would help to align reporting to international commitments. Environmental health surveillance based on HBM and HBM-based indicators, is an excellent tool to inform public health policies about risks from environmental chemicals, and the EU health information system would benefit from additional HBM-based indicators for monitoring exposure burden from environmental chemicals. Considerable efforts are needed to align and establish routine data collections and to develop a surveillance system and indicators which may inform public health policies.

Original languageEnglish
Article number27
JournalArchives of Public Health
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - 2018

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