Chemical Exposure: European Citizens' Perspectives, Trust, and Concerns on Human Biomonitoring Initiatives, Information Needs, and Scientific Results

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021 Feb 5;18(4):1532. doi: 10.3390/ijerph18041532.


Over the last few decades, citizen awareness and perception of chemical products has been a topic of interest, particularly concerning national and international policy decision makers, expert/scientific platforms, and the European Union itself. To date, few qualitative studies on human biomonitoring have analysed communication materials, made recommendations in terms of biomonitoring surveillance, or asked for feedback in terms of specific biomonitoring methods. This paper provides in-depth insight on citizens' perceptions of knowledge of biomonitoring, impact of chemical exposure on daily life, and claims on how results of research should be used. Four semi-structured focus groups were held in Austria, Portugal, Ireland, and the United Kingdom (UK). The cross-sectional observational qualitative design of this study allows for better understanding of public concern regarding chemicals, application, and use of human biomonitoring. The main findings of this study include citizens' clear articulation on pathways of exposure, the demand on stakeholders for transparent decision-making, and sensitivity in communication of results to the public. Validated and trustful communication is perceived as key to empowering citizens to take action. The results can be used to facilitate decision-making and policy development, and feeds into the awareness needs of similar and future projects in human biomonitoring. Furthermore, it also brings to light ideas and concepts of citizens' in shaping collaborative knowledge between citizens', experts, scientists, and policy makers on equal terms.

Keywords: chemical exposure; citizen reflections; focus group; human biomonitoring; policy decision making.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Austria
  • Biological Monitoring*
  • Community Participation
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Humans
  • Ireland
  • Portugal
  • Trust*
  • United Kingdom