The German Environmental Specimen Bank (ESB) is a central element of environmental monitoring in Germany. It has been collecting, storing and analyzing human samples since the 1980s. Every year, the German ESB generates important information on internal exposures of humans by initial real time monitoring. It provides the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) with a scientific basis for appropriate measures concerning environment and nature conservation as well as controlling their success.
The working group Biomonitoring & Biobanks of the Fraunhofer Institute for Biomedical Engineering (IBMT) has been taking samples on behalf of the Federal Environment Agency (UBA) since January 2012. Blood and urine samples of 120-150 volunteers are collected on anh annual basis at 4 locations in the Federal Republic of Germany (Münster, Halle, Ulm, Greifswald). These samples are characterized and cryopreserved for analysis of environmentally relevant chemicals and compositions. Medical history, socio-demographic data, exposure-relevant behaviour and events are documented for each participant via standardized questionnaires. All processes are conducted in accordance with ESB-specific standardized operation procedures according to Good Clinical Laboratory Practice. Thus, the Fraunhofer IBMT collects up to 15,000 individual samples annually under highly standardized conditions which are kept ready and unchanged for retrospective analyses.
After a first analysis of clinical and chemical parameters, an average value is determined for the contaminants of human blood and urine. Clinical parameters such as cholesterol, creatinin and trigycerides are being investigated by Fraunhofer IBMT while other pollutants are being analyzed by IPASUM (Institut und Poliklinik für Arbeitsmedizin, Sozialmedizin und Umweltmedizin, Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg). Through consecutive periodic examinations of comparable groups of persons, long-term trends are detectable. The determination of such long-term trends in the contamination of humans is important in the development of legal measures and their success control. Thanks to the timely unlimited cryopreservation of the samples and the unchanging conditions provided, the prerequisites are being established to perform retrospective analyses at a later time or even repeat analysis after decades when improved testing methods may be available. This way it will be possible to detect environmental contaminants retrospectively which might not have been possible to detect or which might not have been relevant at the time of cryopreservation. The latest results, for example, document the success of regulatory efforts to reduce human exposure to, e. g., hexachlorobenzene, polychlorinated biphenyls, and phthalates such as DEHP. In contrast, ESB data indicates an increase of other phthalates, e. g. DINP, used to replace those classified as reproductive toxicants. Thus, the German ESB supports competent authorities in the assessment of chemicals and provides vital information on human exposures to emerging substances of regulatory concern.
For more information and data-recall please have a look at: https://www.umweltprobenbank.de/en/documents
If you are interested in participating in one of the four sample donations please visit our online-registration system at
for further details and dates.