Chemicals are present in our everyday lives. Products like toothpaste, carpets, electronics or food packaging can be sources of chemicals that people are exposed to. Measuring this exposure has become increasingly possible, because blood or urine samples can be analysed for known substances. Several large and systematic biomonitoring projects are ongoing, for example the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey in the US. In these studies, a representative group of US inhabitants is asked to donate a blood/urine sample. Currently for 246 substances exposure data exist. Of those 246 substances, 26 are also listed or authorized as food contact materials in the European Union and the United States.

It is well established and without scientific doubt that people are exposed to many different chemicals. Of particular concern are the persistent compounds, substances that people are exposed to either on a daily basis or because they accumulate in the body (for example because they are fat soluble). This implies that also substances for which body clearance (metabolization) is fast persistence can be assumed, because exposure to them is constant. Chronic exposure to individual food packaging compounds has been linked to chronic disease, but these findings are still controversial. What is unknown today is how the mixture of human exposures to chemicals contributes to the development of chronic diseases. More research is needed, for example prospective, longitudinal studies (Rappaport and Smith 2010). However, generating such data will likely take several decades. In the meantime, the best available information on possible health effects for chronic chemical exposures comes from epidemiology and animal studies.

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NHANES National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, U.S.

Chemicals measured in NHANES

Exposure Science in the 21st Century: A Vision and A Strategy (National Academies Press report, 2012)

COPHES European Scale Biomonitoring Consortium

German Human Biomonitoring Commission

ACC American Chemistry Council

CEFIC The European Chemical Industry Council