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Environment

Biomonitoring: German Industry, Government Join Over Methods To Assess Chemical Risks

by Marc S. Reisch
May 24, 2010 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 88, ISSUE 21

In an unusual cooperative effort between industry and government, the German Chemical Industry Association, known as VCI, has undertaken a 10-year program to develop analytical methods to detect up to 50 industrial chemicals in people. The German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation & Nuclear Safety will use the detection methods to conduct biomonitoring studies and determine risks to human health.

Government agencies typically develop their own methods to detect chemicals in blood and urine, consulting with industry scientists only when they need additional expertise, says Sean M. Hays, president of Allenspark, Colo.-based Summit Toxicology. But the emergence of a biomonitoring collaboration is a step in the right direction, he says. Hays consults for both industry and government, and his firm has developed computational technology to interpret biomonitoring test results (C&EN, Jan. 28, 2008, page 52).

“Human biomonitoring can serve as an early-warning system” on the buildup of substances of concern in the human body, notes a joint statement from VCI and the German agency. The new tests, they say, will avoid having to rely on models and estimates, “which easily over- or underestimate health risks.”

A VCI spokesman says the association will coordinate the role of member companies in developing test methods for five chemicals during an initial three-year test phase. The chemicals include the flame retardant hexabromocyclododecane, the plasticizer di-(2-propylheptyl)phthalate, and the lubricant additive dodecylphenol.

No one yet knows how much the 10-year program will cost, the spokesman adds, but VCI should have a clearer idea once the test phase is over.

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