Pillar 3 - Human Biomonitoring Platform

WP3.1: Study design
WP3.2: Questionnaires
WP3.3: Recruitment and sampling
WP3.4: Toxicological analysis
WP3.5: Construction of database and data analysis
WP3.6: Biobanking
WP3.7: Reporting

WP3.1: Study design

Background

Until now the FLEHS studies have measured levels of pollutants in three age groups (pregnant mothers that were recruited in the maternities, adolescents of 14-15 yrs old, adults (20-40 yrs–FLEHSII; 50-65 yrs – FLEHSI & III) that have been recruited in 8 different parts of the region (FLEHSI), that were representative in relation to population density per province (FLEHSII and FLEHSIII) or were sampled in hot spot areas (FLEHSII and FLEHSIII). In FLEHSIII there were specific efforts for recruitment of participants from different ethnic origin, low income, low education level. This multi-stage sampling study design allowed to generate reference values of exposure markers from 50 pollutants in the different age groups. These levels could be compared with health based guidance values and with biomarker levels from other studies (mostly international) [6].

Objective

To design a protocol for cost efficient generation of biomonitoring data that:

  1. allows to generate reference biomarker levels for new emerging chemicals,
  2. allows to analyse human exposure trends and
  3. will address the different research questions that are raised in the program: environmental Exposure and health in Flanders in relation with green/grey/blue/agricultural spaces and eco-behaviour. New and emerging chemicals will be prioritized based on their relevance for assessing exposures from green/grey/blue/agricultural spaces, eco-behaviour.


WP3.2: Questionnaires

Background & Objectives

Questionnaires are meant to obtain information on possible exposure routes, influential factors and on specific health aspects.


WP3.3: Recruitment and sampling

Background

Until now participants of 3 different age groups were recruited: newborns, adolescents and adults. In this cycle only adolescents will be recruited.

Objectives

To recruit a population of 600 adolescents, 14-15 years old, 3th year secondary school. Special attention will be paid to recruit adolescents of all social classes.

 

WP3.4: Toxicological analysis

Background

The last FLEHS cycle has provided information on the distribution of more than 50 biomarkers in the Flemish population (see Table 3: ). Some of the exposure biomarkers have been followed throughout the three FLEHS campaigns (2002-2015). These results have been analysed and reported extensively [75,76]. The FLEHS campaigns have allowed to calculate reference values of biomarker levels for the specific age groups of the general population of Flanders. The data have been compared with available biomarker levels from international population surveys. The results have also been interpreted as to their significance for health by identifying the proportion of the population that was above internationally agreed health based guidance values.  The  combination of human biomonitoring data with information from the questionnaires has allowed to identify influential parameters for internal exposure levels [77]. These determinants are partly related to characteristics of the study participants, but also to the environmental and life style factors. In addition the exposure biomarkers  have been associated with effect biomarkers and health information from the individual participants [78,79]. This has allowed to observe health related changes that are associated with the present levels of pollutants in the Flemish population. For the new proposal we have the ambition to continue the follow up and analyse the exposure trends in the Flemish population. We will select with higher priority the chemicals for which we 1) have not observed decreased biomarker concentrations over time (arsenic, thallium, PAHs), 2) chemicals for which we have not yet time reliable trends since they were measured only in FLEHS II and III and for which we observed associations with effect biomarkers or health outcomes (perfluorinated compounds, arsenic speciation, phthalates- manuscript in preparation).
In addition we will select a number of priority chemicals and emerging chemicals that  are of interest and are suspect of being  influenced by the  life style factors (use of space, eco-behaviour, energy efficient housing).  The approach for the emerging chemicals is further developed in pillar 4 under the specific work package on “emerging chemicals” (WP4.4).

 

WP3.5: Construction of database and data analysis

Background

Until now the FLEHS studies have resulted in a database - which was made available in different software systems (Excel, Statistica, SAS, SPPS) - for each campaign containing the questionnaire data and toxicological data.
For each dataset, an Excel codebook was established describing all the variables in the database.Recently also a collaboration has been established with the European Environment Agency (EEA) and the Joint Research Center (JRC) for access to data and protocols to serve information needs on HBM in Europe. Input was given for the management of data resulting from linking toxicological results and questionnaires in order to facilitate the inclusion of both existing and new HBM data into the Information Platform for Chemical Monitoring Data (IPCheM platform).

Objectives

To describe the different procedures needed for the data management of both the questionnaire and toxicological data. To obtain a database containing the questionnaire and toxicological data, and a codebook describing the variables in the database. To establish an sql-database which contains the results of the questionnaire data, the toxicological data, the information included in the codebook and the biobank data with information on the biospecimens.
To construct a statistical analysis plan to conduct the statistical analyses needed to answer the research questions, including the socio-stratification of HBM-results (see WP 2.3).

 

WP3.6: Biobanking

Background

Generating a biobank for FLEHS studies allows to perform new measurements on participants with an already well-characterized environment and lifestyle profile, without having to collect new samples. The concept of the biobank may be considered as a biological archive of the current exposure levels in Flanders, and as such allows analysis of the past with future technologies. Since the campaign of FLEHSII, leftover biospecimens are stored as so-called biobanking samples. In FLEHSIII, a leftover volume was deliberately considered when writing down the protocols for sampling, meaning that for each participant additional sample volume was collected and stored for later analyses.

Objectives

To

  1. store biospecimens of FLEHSIV participants for future analyses,

  2. in a QC compliant system, and

  3. to keep track of their biobank life cycle


WP3.7: Reporting

The objectives of analyzing human biomonitoring data on environmental health include: assessing temporal exposure trends and the effectiveness of policy actions, characterizing patterns of exposure, comparing different population subgroups and identifying vulnerable subpopulations. Presenting and interpreting the data in a clear and understandable manner helps to broaden the outreach of the information. It also facilitates the use of a common “language,” or a more standardized approach, among different sectors involved in environmental public health policy-making. Advantages of using a standardized approach are consistency and comparability of data across various settings [80].

Objectives

  • To report data to participants and stakeholders after completing the different work packages (WP3.5; WP4.2; WP4.4) in accordance to the strategy described in WP 2.3.

  • To publish a report providing summaries of temporal trends and a summary report on the behavioural determinants for the new emerging pollutants, the distribution of each biomarker within the population and reference values for the selected age groups.

  • To publish at least 1 peer-reviewed manuscript outlining the major accomplishments, data gaps and priority environmental health issues based on the analyses of the new HBM data.

Meerjarenplan 2016-2020