The European Union is launching a huge project of the European Human Biomonitoring Initiative. It is crucial for protecting the public health. The EU countries will examine the presence and quantity of selected chemicals in the human body. The aim is to obtain a scientific evidence of chemical substances in human body, and prepare the legislation documents regulating chemicals in products. The Slovak representation in the Project includes the Public Health Office of the Slovak Republic, the Slovak University of Technology, the Slovak Medical University and the University of Constantine the Philosopher.
The Project involves more than 130 medical and research institutions from 26 European Union countries. The Project is part of the Horizon 2020 scheme that addresses the major scientific topics of the European Union. STU is the most successful of the Slovak universities involved in Horizon 2020.
"The projects approved within the Horizon scheme address the key research topics of the European Union. The Slovak University of Technology is the most successful of the Slovak universities and educational institutions whose researchers are involved in similar projects. It can be attributed to the effect of the recent renovation of the laboratories in the University Science Parks. New devices, frequently unique on the European scale, help our researchers keep abreast with the scientific centres worldwide", says Robert Redhammer, the STU Rector.
The European Human Biomonitoring Initiative Project is scheduled for the period of five years. In the first year, the main task will be collecting the data on the presence of chemicals in human body and their effects and relevance as reported in the European countries research and scientific studies. The research itself, i.e. collecting and analysing the samples, will be elaborated in the following year. Sampling will be associated with filling out extensive questionnaires mapping the information on health status, diet, lifestyle or specific features of locations where respondents live. All this will help determine the source of chemicals and their paths into the human body.
"The Project aim is to collect information and evidence on the impact of chemicals on the health of residents. Chemicals have become a common part of our lives; they are all around us - in food, cosmetics, water, buildings and equipment of our apartments and offices, and we need to know their impact on our body. The Project involves a wide scale of experts from all over Europe: doctors, public health professionals, analysts and health statistics professionals, biologists, legislators and, of course, chemists of different expertise and those who study the impact of chemicals on the human body", explains Katarina Halzlová of the Public Health Office.
"In the second phase, the STU experts in analytical chemistry will join the Project. So far, the Project presumes the monitoring of nine groups of chemicals and their harmful effects on human health, about which we have limited knowledge and a minimum evidence. Analysis of biological materials (urine, hair etc.) collected from respondents in the chemical laboratory will examine the presence and amounts of monitored groups of chemicals in the human body. We will then determine the chemicals having a crucial negative impact on health", says Ivan Špánik of the Institute of Analytical Chemistry, STU Faculty of Chemical and Food Technology.
The groups of selected chemicals to be examined were chosen in the discussions of scientists from various countries. Each country submitted a group that is important from the country’s point of view. The Slovak priorities on the current list are mainly phthalates, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, PAHs and bisphenol A, i.e. so called "flame retardants" and mixtures of chemicals.
Phthalates are a group of substances used mainly as "softeners" which add elasticity and flexibility to plastics. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons are mainly the products of incomplete combustion produced by the companies such as chemical factories, metallurgical works, power plants and heating plants, as well as internal combustion engines of passenger cars and individual heating. Households add smoke of cigarette, candles or cooking (e.g. grilling). Bisphenol A, well-known as BPA, is a chemical substance used in the manufacture of plastics, such as bottles, plastic utensils, medical plastics etc. Flame retardants are present in a variety of products from electronics to furniture, parts of buildings, through plastics to clothing and other textiles. Interesting results are anticipated from monitoring the mixtures of chemical substances, since the current scientific research has generally examined chemicals individually.
The total budget of the European Human Biomonitoring Initiative project is € 60 million. The Project outcomes will become part of IPCheM (The Information Platform for Chemical Monitoring), a European database of chemicals. The database will also include the valid and essential information on the presence and impact of chemicals on the human body. The data will serve as a source for the designers of the national and European legislation.
The European Human Biomonitoring Initiative Project is one of 13 Horizon 2020 projects involving the STU scientists in the fields of power industry, nanotechnology, mathematical modelling, informatics, Internet of Things, acoustics, as well as the areas of materials engineering and environmental planning. Statistics of the Slovak institutions involved in the Horizon 2020 project can be found in the STU website. In majority of the projects, STU is a research partner; while in SlovakION, project of the Slovak Ion Centre, STU is the principal coordinator of the international project.