Cefic-lri Programme | European Chemical Industry Council

D2.1-MRCI: Background Incidence of Key Biomarkers of Chemical Exposure within the General Population

Principal Investigator

Dr. Leonard S Levy, OBE
MRC Institute For Environment and Health
University of Leicester
Regent Road 94
Leicester, LE1 7DD
Tel: +44 116 223 1630
Fax: +44 116 223 1601


Dr. John Cocker – Biological Monitoring Section – Health and Safety Laboratory


The science of biomarkers and measurement of exposures via biomarkers has progressed substantially in the past ten years, resulting in several occupational exposure limits being set on the basis of biomarker measurement, and the acceptance of biomarkers as measurement of exposure in risk assessment. However, there remains a dearth of information on background exposures to biomarkers in the general population, as the majority of biomarker studies have been conducted to look at high-level exposures and have only examined small control groups for background exposures. Furthermore, there are very few established reference ranges for biomarkers against which to compare measured environmental biomarker exposures and to determine whether particular exposure levels are higher than would normally be expected. This severely limits the interpretation of biomarker measurements and can lead to controversy as to their interpretation. The overall aim of the project is to determine the background incidence of a range of biomarkers of chemical exposure within the general adult UK population. This project will advance the state of the current science as it will be amongst the first European projects to establish background incidence values for a range of biomarkers in the general population. This will provide valuable information on the background exposure of the general population to a range of common chemicals, and further contribute to the existing, limited, database of exposure data indicating that such exposures are well below levels of concern. The project will also enable reference ranges to be established for a range of the biomarkers being measured at background levels of exposure. This will enable future biomarker measurements to be interpreted in light of the established reference ranges and allow better interpretation of whether exposures are higher than would normally be expected and to provide a baseline against which to identify any long-term trends in exposure.

Related Publications

Bevan, R et al., Reference ranges for key biomarkers of chemical exposure within the UK population. Int. J. Hyg. Environ. Health (2012)

LS Levy, K Jones, J Cocker, FL Assem, AC Capleton, Background levels of key biomarkers of chemical exposure within the UK general population – Pilot study, International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health 2007, 210, 387-391.

Timeline: May 2004 > May 2007

LRI funding: € 305.258

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