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Title: Ethics issues experienced in HBM within Portuguese health surveillance and research projects
Authors: Reis, M. Fátima
Segurado, Susana
Brantes, Ana
Simões, Helena Teresinha
Melim, J. Maurício
Geraldes, V.
Miguel, José Pereira
Keywords: Incineração de resíduos sólidos
Vigilância em saúde ambiental
Exposição ambiental
Issue Date: 2008
Publisher: Bio Med Central
Citation: Environmental Health 2008, 7(Suppl 1):S5
Abstract: Background: In keeping with the fundamental practice of transparency in the discussion and resolution of ethics conflicts raised by research, a summary of ethics issues raised during Portuguese biomonitoring in health surveillance and research is presented and, where applicable, their resolution is described. Methods: Projects underway aim to promote the surveillance of public health related to the presence of solid waste incinerators or to study associations between human exposure to environmental factors and adverse health effects. The methodological approach involves biomonitoring of heavy metals, dioxins and/or other persistent organic pollutants in tissues including blood, human milk and both scalp and pubic hair in groups such as the general population, children, pregnant women or women attempting pregnancy. As such, the projects entail the recruitment of individuals representing different demographic and health conditions, the collection of body tissues and personal data, and the processing of the data and results. Results: The issue of autonomy is raised during the recruitment of participants and during the collection of samples and data. This right is protected by the requirement for prior written, informed consent from the participant or, in the case of children, from their guardian. Recruitment has been successful, among eligible participants, in spite of incentives rarely being offered. The exception has been in obtaining guardians' consent for children's participation, particularly for blood sampling. In an attempt to mitigate the harm-benefit ratio, current research efforts include alternative less invasive biomarkers. Surveys are currently being conducted under contract as independent biomonitoring actions and as such, must be explicitly disclosed as a potential conflict of interests. Communication of results to participants is in general only practised when a health issue is present and corrective action possible. Concerning human milk a careful approach is taken, considering breast-feeding's proven benefits. Conclusion: No national legislation currently accounts for the surveillance component of biomonitoring as distinct from research. Ethics issues arising within the domain of research are resolved according to available regulations. For issues encountered during surveillance, the same principles are used as guidance, completed by the authors' best judgement and relevant ethics committees' findings.
Peer review: yes
ISSN: 1476-069X
Appears in Collections:FM-IMP-Artigos em Revistas Internacionais

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