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Regul Toxicol Pharmacol. 2011 Feb;59(1):125-32. doi: 10.1016/j.yrtph.2010.09.015. Epub 2010 Oct 7.

Human biomonitoring as a pragmatic tool to support health risk management of chemicals--examples under the EU REACH programme.

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  • 1Shell Health, Shell International bv, P.O. Box 162, 2501 AN The Hague, The Netherlands.


REACH requires health risk management for workers and the general population and introduced the concept of Derived No-Effect Level (DNEL). DNELs must be derived for all substances that are classified as health hazards. As with analogues to other health-risk based guidance values, such as reference doses (RfDs) and tolerable daily intakes (TDIs), risk to health is considered negligible if the actual exposure is less than the DNEL. Exposure assessment is relatively simple for occupational situations but more complex for the general public, in which exposure may occur via multiple pathways, routes, and media. For such complex or partially defined exposure scenarios, human biomonitoring gives a snapshot of internal or absorbed dose of a chemical and is often the most reliable exposure assessment methodology as it integrates exposures from all routes. For human risk management human biomonitoring data can be interpreted using the recently developed concept of Biomonitoring Equivalents (BE). Basically, a BE translates an established reference value into a biomarker concentration using toxicokinetic data. If the results of an exposure assessment using human biomonitoring indicate that the levels measured are below the DNEL-based BE (BE(DNEL)), it would indicate that the combined exposure via all potential exposure routes is unlikely to pose a risk to human health and that health risk management measures might not be needed. Hence, BEs do not challenge existing risk assessments but rather build upon them to help risk management, the ultimate goal of any risk assessment. A challenge in implementing this approach forms the limited availability of toxicokinetic information for many substances. However, methodologies such as generic physiologically-based toxicokinetic models, which allow estimation of biomarker concentrations based on physicochemical properties, are being developed for less data-rich chemicals. Use of BE by regulatory authorities will allow initial screening of population exposure to chemicals to identify those chemicals requiring more detailed risk and exposure assessment, assisting in priority setting and ultimately leading to improved product stewardship and risk management.

Copyright © 2010 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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