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Division of Biological Monitoring

Biological Monitoring is a measure used in occupational and environmental medicine in the protection of the individual against the harmful effects of chemical compounds. Biological Monitoring is used to estimate the extent to which an individual has been exposed to a chemical compound. Biological Monitoring is capable to determine the uptake of a substance by all three major routes of exposure (inhalation, oral and dermal absorption). Consequently, Biological Monitoring is an integral part of human risk assessment. The Division uses two different forms of Biological Monitoring

  1. Biological Monitoring of the internal dose (analysis of chemicals or their metabolites in blood or urine) and
  2. Biological Monitoring of the effective dose (haemoglobin adducts in blood and DNA adducts in blood or urine)

The overall aim of our programme is the development and use of state-of-the-art analytical methods for the determination of human exposure to hazardous substances at the workplace and via the environment by analysing an individual's body fluids, e.g. blood or urine.

Analytical methods in our laboratories are based on Atomic Absorption Spectroscopy (AAS), Ion Chromatography, Gas Chromatography (GC) as well as regular and 2-Dimensional High-Perfomance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) using different detection systems. All methods must undergo an extensive validation process before their use in field studies. Methods are subjected to internal and external quality assurance measurements (quality control of the analytical results as stipulated in the guidelines of the German Medical Association, participation in international intercomparism programs, e.g. G-EQUAS).

Since some of the metabolites of chemicals are not commercially available our team is also synthesizing those compounds by micro-scaled organic synthesis procedures. In addition the corresponding stable isotope-labelled compounds (13C, 15N or 2H) are synthesised for internal standardisation of methods based on mass spectrometry.

Analytical methods are also often independently proven by experts of the Working Group "Analysis of Hazardous Substances in Biological Materials" of the Commission for the Investigation of Health Hazards of Chemical Compounds in the Work Area of the German Research Foundation (DFG). The Commission of the DFG and their various Working Groups are the major advising committees for the German Committee on Hazardous Substances (AGS) of the Federal Ministry of Work and Labour, and the Federal Environmental Agency (UBA) which in turn are setting threshold limit values at the workplace and the environment in Germany.

The analytical methods are finally used in larger-scale molecular-epidemiological studies at the IPA to establish dose-response relationships in exposed individuals. However, apart from analysing blood and urine samples as part of our research projects we also offer our expertise to individual companies or primary health care physicians for the assessment of exposure from the workplace or the environment.