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Preparedness as a key factor for human biomonitoring programs after chemical incidents



Human biomonitoring (HBM) has been repeatedly recommended for and applied to post-incident chemical exposure assessment. The applicability of HBM and the validity of its results, however, closely depend on the existence and quality of preparatory measures such as information and instruction materials, sampling procedures, transport and storage facilities, and on the selection of appropriate biomarkers, sampling time, transport and storage conditions.


To establish a standardized HBM program for emergency responders of a large chemical production site, considering the aforementioned aspects.


An HBM program based on a comprehensive questionnaire, information and training of emergency responders, and availability of sampling material was established. The quantitative determination of metabolites of hazardous substances was carried out based on quality-controlled analytical methods.


The use of HBM after emergency operations was significantly increased immediately after the implementation of the program. Only in single cases, however, established HBM assessment values were exceeded. After one major incident, an increased exposure to benzene exceeding the internal action value was observed after firefighting and safeguarding.


The experience with several minor and one major incident at a chemical production site suggests that the implementation of easily accessible and applicable routines is one paramount prerequisite for the success of HBM programs after chemical incidents.

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Fig. 1: Results of an HBM program for benzene after a major accident in 2016.
Fig. 2: Results of an HBM program for benzene after a major accident in 2016.

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The authors thank all participants of the voluntary HBM program for emergency responders for their collaboration. The work presented in this paper is part of the occupational medical exposure assessment and of emergency response.


The analyses and other works described in this paper are part of the occupational medical services in the company and on the production site. No additional funding was received.

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Correspondence to Michael Bader.

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The authors are employees of a chemical company. The authors declare no competing interests.

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Bader, M., Bäcker, S., Jäger, T. et al. Preparedness as a key factor for human biomonitoring programs after chemical incidents. J Expo Sci Environ Epidemiol 31, 867–875 (2021).

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