Human biomonitoring is a practice to monitor the exposure of population to chemical contaminants. In this case we measured the blood concentration of Beta_HCH
Hexachlorocyclohexane is a synthetic chemical with several isomers, including β-Hexachlorocyclohexane (β-HCH). It is widely recognized that, in case of chemical release, the soil is the primary receptor and the most important means of exposure for plants, animals, and humans. The latters are mainly exposed through the alimentation. In 2005, a large contamination of crude milk from some bovine farms along the
Sacco River (Central Italy) was detected; it was related to the illegal disposal of large quantities of processing waste by a chemical industry of the area. A biomonitoring study, conducted in 2007 on a sample of the residing population, found high values of β-HCH in people living close to the river. These results led to the establishment of a clinical and epidemiological surveillance program on all the exposed population.
The aim of the study was to evaluate the determinants of β-HCH blood levels in people living within 1 Km of the river.
A representative sample of population was defined. The researchers submitted a questionnaire to the people from whom blood was taken. In our study, 246 blood samples were collected. It was possible to demonstrate that the older people living along the Sacco river have been contaminated with ß–HCH probably through the use of private well water and the consumption of local and privately produced foods.

Resources needed

Funds depend on the magnitude of the population sample.
• Cost for technical analysis (main cost). In our study, 200€/person
• Human resources : nurses, doctors and epidemiologists (for blood extractions, health evaluation and data interpretation)
• Logistic costs (expedition, travels)

Evidence of success

Before the implementation of the practice, there were serious suspects of historical exposure of people to HCH. Human biomonitoring gave the scientific evidence of the exposure. Results showed that β-HCH geometric mean serum concentration was 72 ng/g lipid. β-HCH contamination of the population living near the Sacco River was greater for older people, for those who have been drinking well water and eating locally produced eggs and beef.

Difficulties encountered

Costs may be high

Potential for learning or transfer

It would be advisable to transfer this practice to other contaminated sites in the framework of Lindanet project. According to our experience there is a lot of interest by the general people to know if and how the environmental contamination affect their health status. Unfortunately it is not easy to clear the human organism form the contaminant, but it is still possible to protect people from further assumption. That is why it is of primary importance to detect which one is the specifical exposure pathway. This knowledge could permit people to continue living near contaminated sites in safety conditions
Main institution
Lazio Region
Lazio, Italy (Italia)
Start Date
February 2013
End Date
November 2015


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