Monitoring concentrations of persistent organic pollutants in the general population: The international experience

Miquel Porta, Elisa Puigdomènech, Ferran Ballester, Javier Selva, Núria Ribas-Fitó, Sabrina Llop, Tomàs López

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleResearchpeer-review

159 Citations (Scopus)


Assessing the adverse effects on human health of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) and the impact of policies aiming to reduce human exposure to POPs warrants monitoring body concentrations of POPs in representative samples of subjects. While numerous ad hoc studies are being conducted to understand POPs effects, only a few countries are conducting nationwide surveillance programs of human concentrations of POPs, and even less countries do so in representative samples of the general population. We tried to identify all studies worldwide that analyzed the distribution of concentrations of POPs in a representative sample of the general population, and we synthesized the studies' main characteristics, as design, population, and chemicals analyzed. The most comprehensive studies are the National Reports on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals (USA), the German Environmental Survey, and the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme. Population-wide studies exist as well in New Zealand, Australia, Japan, Flanders (Belgium) and the Canary Islands (Spain). Most such studies are linked with health surveys, which is a highly-relevant additional strength. Only the German and Flemish studies analyzed POPs by educational level, while studies in the USA offer results by ethnic group. The full distribution of POPs concentrations is unknown in many countries. Knowledge gaps include also the interplay of age, gender, period and cohort effects on the prevalence of exposures observed by cross-sectional surveys. Local and global efforts to minimize POPs contamination, like the Stockholm convention, warrant nationwide monitoring of concentrations of POPs in representative samples of the general population. Results of this review show how such studies may be developed and used. © 2007 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)546-561
JournalEnvironment international
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2008


  • Chlorinated
  • Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane
  • Environmental exposure/adverse effects
  • Environmental monitoring
  • Environmental pollutants/toxicity/prevention and control
  • General population
  • Health survey
  • Hexachlorobenzene
  • Hexachlorocyclohexane
  • Human biomonitoring
  • Human samples
  • Humans
  • Hydrocarbons
  • Insecticides/blood
  • Persistent organic pollutants
  • Persistent toxic substances
  • Pesticide residues
  • Polychlorinated biphenyls
  • Stockholm Treaty


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