The German Environmental Specimen Bank (ESB) is a central element of the health-related environmental monitoring system in Germany. For more than 35 years, it has provided important scientific data in order to track temporal trends in chemical exposure with human and environmental samples. The Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Nuclear Safety and Comsumer Protection (BMUV) uses this data as basis for political mitigation measures to protect the environment and human health and to monitor their success. The German ESB is a permanent establishment of the BMU and is coordinated by the German Environment Agency (UBA).
The project group Environmental Specimen Bank - Human Samples of the Working Group Biomonitoring & Biobanks at the Fraunhofer IBMT has been responsible for the human division of the UPB on behalf of the UBA since January 2012. Since 2013, a team of 13 staff members including doctors and dentists has been collecting, processing and cryopreserving human samples (whole blood, plasma, urine) and exposure-relevant data in a mobile epidemiological laboratory (with an integrated BSL2 area, point-of-care analysis and LIN-based cryopreservation) in order to ensure the greatest possible comparability and quality of the samples and data. With a specially developed hygiene and safety concept, the Fraunhofer IBMT was able to conduct this study in 2021 despite the Sars-CoV-2 pandemic (see video).
Due to the partial automation of processes in 2020 and the use of smaller aliquots, the number of samples generated within the three day sampling campaign per location could be scaled up from approx. 3,900 to 13,500 samples. The Fraunhofer IBMT now collects around 54,000 highly standardized samples per year that can be used to investigate exposure to potentially harmful substances.
With the unlimited cryopreservation of the collected samples under alteration-free conditions, retrospective examinations at later times or repeated examinations with newer and possibly more sensitive measurement techniques are possible. Thus, even after decades, substances can be retrospectively detected that were not yet known or analyzed at the time the samples were stored or that were previously not considered to be harmful.
Data from the German ESB can be researched at: https://www.umweltprobenbank.de/en/documents
If you are interested in participating in one of our sampling campaigns in Münster, Halle, Greifswald or Ulm, we warmly invite you to visit our homepage