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Spain orders ‘biomonitoring’ of its population

The aim of the government's biomonitoring programme is to investigate what damage to health the more than 23 000 chemical substances registered in the EU could cause. “Emerging risks” are expected to be included.

Published: November 12, 2022, 5:28 am

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    The left-socialist government coalition around Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez claims to be concerned that the population is being exposed to more and more chemical substances and products that are harmful to health.

    Therefore, on November 3, 2022, it was officially ordered that the population should be subjected to “biomonitoring” with immediate effect. For this purpose, the Decree PCM/1049/2022 “Establishing the Interministerial Commission for Human Biomonitoring” was published. As usual, the government relies on EU guidelines on this issue.

    In its new regulation, the government announced: “The number of chemicals and substances on the world market is constantly increasing. More than 23 000 substances are currently registered in the European Union under the REACH regulation, according to the register of the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA). Global sales of chemicals amounted to 3471 billion euros in 2020, while in Europe it was 499 billion euros, accounting for 14,4 of sales.”

    Despite the existing legal framework, knowledge about exposure to chemical substances and their health effects remains a major challenge, the government said. This is due to the large number of existing and newly synthesized substances, the complexity of geographic and temporal exposure situations, the impact of cumulative exposure over time, the combination of substances and emerging risks.

    In this context, “Human Biomonitoring” (BMH) is a very useful tool for health protection, as it provides concrete information on exposure to chemicals through an assessment of chemicals or their degradation products in human samples.

    Through the BMH one can learn about the level of exposure of individuals, the general population or specific groups, as well as the routes of exposure and the determinants of exposure – and in some cases their potential health effects. This could allow exposure reduction measures to be developed to reduce harm to individuals.

    According to the government , the European Commission has supported the development of the BMH by funding various projects as part of its research programmes. In this regard, the “Human Biomonitoring Initiative for Europe (HBM4EU)” stands out. This is a multiannual program designed to establish, coordinate and promote human health surveillance in the European Union.

    The aim is to gain knowledge about the exposure of citizens to chemical pollutants and their effects on health, and then taking certain public health measures which will be touted as contributing to improving the health and well-being of the population.

    One of the most important points of this initiative is the need to develop national BMH structures to ensure the sustainability and continuity of the European network. This is the only way to meet the needs of each participating country in the field of “human biomonitoring”. The overarching goal in the medium to long term is to create an institutional structure for the exchange of information, experience and best practices in the field of chemical risk management.

    With this decree, the Interministerial Commission for “Human Biomonitoring” (CIBMH) was created. The Ministry of Health is the competent authority for the application of all the above European regulations, the authority cooperating with the Carlos III Health Institute in Madrid, an autonomous body dependent on the Ministry of Science and Innovation and the Ministry of Health.

    The Ministry of Health participates in all the assessment procedures set out in the various regulations, both for industrial chemicals (REACH regulation) and for active substances for biocidal and phytosanitary purposes (specific regulations).

    Article 2 of the new regulation specifies the responsibilities of the CIBMH. This includes the coordination, planning and organization of the tasks carried out by the state administration in connection with studies or plans for human biomonitoring in the field of chemical substances and their degradation products in human samples. An exception are medicinal products or those of radioactive origin.

    Spanish lawyer Aitor Gusiasola, who pointed out this regulation in a video on his channel Un abogado contra la demagogia, emphasized: “Everyone can come to their own conclusion, I have already done so. It doesn’t seem right to me that we should first be exposed to chemical substances and then see how they have damaged our health.”

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