Pollution in People Initiative: Establishing the Israeli National Biomonitoring Program
In order to fully understand the extent to which people are exposed to environmental pollutants we not only need information about the levels of pollution in the environment, but also about the levels of pollution in people.
Analyzing environmental pollutants in human biological samples (biomonitoring) can be informative in many ways. This includes the assessment of individual exposure to environmental chemicals, the identification of changes at the cellular or molecular level before a clinical diagnosis, the determination of permissible exposure levels of the general population, the comparison of chemical exposure levels among different populations, and the evaluation of the effectiveness of policies aimed at reducing public exposure to certain chemicals. Such data can help not only in setting priorities for improving policy but also have been shown to be effective in raising public awareness.
National biomonitoring programs have been implemented in many countries, including the United States, Canada, France, Belgium and Germany. Similar to most European countries, there is no legislation in Israel that requires biomonitoring in the general population but there have been a number of biomonitoring studies that have been carried out in recent years. During 2015-2016 the first government biomonitoring survey was conducted by the Ministry of Health as part of the National Health and Nutrition Survey (Rav-MABAT). These have resulted in important publications that provide information on the exposure of the Israeli population to environmental chemicals. Listed below are some of these publications:
- Berman, T., Amitai, Y., Almog, S., & Richter, E. D. (2012). Human biomonitoring in Israel: Past, present, future. International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health, 215(2), 138‐141. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijheh.2011.09.006
- Berman, T., Barnett-Itzhaki, Z., Göen, T., Hamama, Z., Axelrod, R., Keinan-Boker, L., ...Goldsmith, R. (2020). Organophosphate pesticide exposure in children in Israel: Dietary associations and implications for risk assessment. Environmental Research, 182, 108739. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envres.2019.108739
- Berman, T., Goldsmith, R., Göen, T., Spungen, J., Novack, L., Levine, H., ...Grotto, I. (2013). Urinary concentrations of environmental contaminants and phytoestrogens in adults in Israel. Environment International, 59, 478‐484. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envint.2013.07.012
- Ein-Mor, E., Berman, T., Barnett-Itzhaki, Z., Göen, T., Ergaz-Shaltiel, Z., Natsheh, J., ...Calderon-Margalit, R. (2019). Newborn infant urinary cotinine and birth outcomes in the Jerusalem Environment Mother and Child Cohort Study. International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health, 222(7), 1054–1058. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijheh.2019.07.006
- Ein-Mor, E., Ergaz-Shaltiel, Z., Berman, T., Göen, T., Natsheh, J., Ben-Chetrit, A., ...Calderon-Margalit, R. (2018). Decreasing urinary organophosphate pesticide metabolites among pregnant women and their offspring in Jerusalem: Impact of regulatory restrictions on agricultural organophosphate pesticides use? International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health, 221(5), 775‐781. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijheh.2018.03.013
- Levine, H., Berman, T., Goldsmith, R., Göen, T., Spungen, J., Novack, L., ...Grotto, I. (2013). Exposure to tobacco smoke based on urinary cotinine levels among Israeli smoking and nonsmoking adults: A cross-sectional analysis of the first Israeli human biomonitoring study. BMC Public Health, 13, 1241. https://doi.org/10.1186/1471-2458-13-1241
- Machtinger, R., Berman, T., Adir, M., Mansur, A., Baccarelli, A. A., Racowsky, C., ...Nahum, R. (2018). Urinary concentrations of phthalate metabolites, bisphenols and personal care product chemical biomarkers in pregnant women in Israel. Environment International, 116, 319–325. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envint.2018.04.022
- Tordjman, K., Grinshpan, L., Novack, L., Göen, T., Segev, D., Beacher, L., ...Berman, T. (2016). Exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals among residents of a rural vegetarian/vegan community. Environment International, 97, 68‐75. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envint.2016.10.018
EHF published an open Request for Proposals in 2018 intended to assist Israeli scientists and policy makers to establish a sustainable infrastructure for investigating the exposure of the Israeli population to environmental contaminants. Following a review by an international panel of experts, EHF established the National Human Biomonitoring Program in Israel in partnership with the Ministry of Health.
Development of a national human biomonitoring program in Israel is accompanied by an International Scientific Advisory Committee, including:
- Dr. Antonia Calafat, Chief of the Organic Analytical Toxicology Branch at the Division of Laboratory Sciences, National Center for Environmental Health of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Atlanta, GA, USA;
- Dr. Marike Kolossa-Gehring, Director of the German Human Biomonitoring Program and Coordinator of the HBM4U program, Berlin, Germany;
- Prof. Greet Schoeters, Program manager of environmental health at VITO (The Flemish Institute for Technological Research) and Coordinator of the Flemish human biomonitoring study (FLEHS) .
Scientific Advisory Committee’s Visit
The first visit of the Scientific Advisory Committee intended to guide and evaluate the national human biomonitoring program took place during January, 2020.
The Committee visited the Israeli Ministry of Health and met with personnel from the Ministry working on the program. As part of the visit a workshop on biomonitoring entitled “Human Biomonitoring in Israel: Bridging between Research and Policy” was held. Participants in the workshop included the Committee members as well as professionals in the field of biomonitoring from Israel.