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Biomonitoring projects in Europe

ToxicoWatch Biomonitoring projects

Environmental biomarkers
Kaunas, biomonitoring

Biomonitoring Kaunas

Flag of Lithuania

All over the world, there is growing public awareness and concern over the potentially toxic effects of persistent organic pollutants on human health and the environment. In particular, people living near waste incinerators need to be reassured about their health risks, (short- and long-term exposure to incineration emissions), the safety of such combustion facilities, and compliance with regulations – not only under normal conditions, but also in "other than normal operating conditions" (OTNOC), such as shut-downs, start-ups, and failures.


The newly built Kaunas WtE (waste) incinerator, UAB Kauno Cogeneration Power Plant, has been in operation since November 2020. The first round of a biomonitoring research on biomarkers of backyard chicken eggs, pine needles and mosses in the region around the incinerator has taken place.


The region of Kaunas shows an environment under threat by contamination of substances of very high concern in eggs of backyard chicken, pine needles, and mosses. This biomonitoring gives a warning signal for the presence of toxic substances such as dioxins (PCDD/F), dioxin-like PCBs, PAHs and PFAS. More research is needed to find out the contribution of the incinerator. The striking evidence is the absence of transparency toward the people living in the environment of an incinerator. 


See report 2021 biomonitoring Kaunas, Lithuania (LT)

See report 2022 biomonitoring Kaunas, Lithuania (LT)

Biomonitoring research Lithuania
Biomonitoring Pilsen

Biomonitoring Pilsen (CZ)

Flag of Czech Rep.

The complexity of the chemical content of today’s household and industrial waste presents a challenge for turning modern waste into energy in (WtE) waste incinerators. Even with the application of the most developed air pollution control devices (APCD), it is still a huge challenge to eliminate the multitude of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) in waste incinerator residues and flue gases. Chotíkov, near Pilsen (Czech: Plzeň) is the location of the fourth municipal WtE waste incinerator in the Czech Republic: ZEVO Chotíkov or ZEVO Plzeň. The WtE incinerator receives about 12,369 tons of waste per hour, with an annual load of 95,000 tons of waste.  The region of Pilsen shows an environment under threat by contamination of substances of very high concern in eggs of backyard chicken, pine needles, and mosses. This biomonitoring gives a warning signal for contamination of the environment with serious toxic substances such as dioxins (PCDD/F), dioxin-like PCBs, PAHs and PFAS. 

See report Pilsen, Czech Rep. (CZ), 2022

Biomonitoring research Czech Rep.

Biomonitoring Madrid (ES)

Flag Spain

The WtE (waste) incinerator of Valdemingómez in Madrid, Spain has been in operation since 1996. The biomonitoring research in the region around WtE incinerator show high levels of dioxins around the waste incinerator. The toxicity of the sum of dioxins (PCDD/F/dl-PCBs) in mosses, expressed in TCDD eq./g product for DR CALUX analysis exceeding with a factor of 20 compared to reference moss locations.

The results of dioxins in the pine needles is 75 times more compared to dioxins measured at the reference location. Remarkable is the high result of PFAS found in the Aleppo pine needles. 


The PAH found in needles of Aleppo pine - Pinus halepensis is 10 times more than in the reference sample taken 4,000 metres away. In the foliage of Cupressus Arizona, the PAH concentration, expressed in Benzo[a]pyrene, is 12 times more than measured at the reference point.

All these findings indicate a strong pollution source in this environment. More information and research is needed to determine the contribution of POPs emissions of Valdemingómez to the environment. 

See report Madrid, Spain (ES), 2022

Biomonitoring research Madrid, Spain

True Toxic Toll

The biomonitoring study in Lithuania, Spain, and the Czech Republic is part of a Europe-wide research project on POP emissions in possible relation to waste (WtE) incineration. The project is running simultaneously for 2021 and 2022 in these three countries: ToxicoWatch Foundation, is participating as a scientific partner together with three environmental organizations, Ecologists in Action Spain, Žiedinė Ekonomika in Lithuania, and Hnutí DUHA in the Czech Republic, all coordinated by Zero Waste Europe. See video about "true toxic toll".

See report ZW-3 countries (LT, ES & CZ) 2022

Zero Waste Europe Biomonitoring


Video about biomonitoring


Biomonitoring Zubieta,
Basque Country, Spain

Key findings 


  • High dioxin levels in mosses near the incinerator

  • Elevated dioxins at egg location (3600 m) in the main wind direction south of the incinerator

  • Typical combustion congeners, like OCDD and HpCDF1, are found in the eggs

  • PFAS found in the bio matrices mosses, eggs, and sediment

  • More research is needed on the water stream near the incinerator, because of calamities


Biomonitoring Beringen, België

Het college van burgermeester en schepenen van de stad Beringen heeft ToxicoWatch (TW) in 2019 de opdracht gegeven voor een niet-humane biomonitoring van dioxinen (PCDD/F) en dioxineachtige PCB (dl-PCB) in relatie tot de WtE afvalverbrandingscentrale Bionerga, welke in 2020 in productie is gegaan. Dit rapport betreft de derde meetserie van een meerjarig biomonitoringsonderzoek naar de depositie van dioxinen mogelijk in relatie met de afvalverbrandingsoven Bionerga. De eerste meetserie heeft plaatsgevonden in oktober 2019, voordat WtE installatie Bionerga operationeel was. De derde meetserie is in oktober 2022 uitgevoerd. 


Biomonitoring Paris, France 2021

Key findings 
  • High dioxin levels in 83% of eggs from backyard chickens.

  • EU limits for safe egg consumption are exceeded

  • High amounts of dioxins in pine needles and mosses in the vicinity of the incinerator.

  • The levels of dioxins in eggs and vegetation are among the highest values found in Europe.

The Netherlands
Dioxins in the Netherlands
In the north of the Netherlands, Harlingen, a waste incinerator is installed in 2011. The population in the region is concerned about adverse health effects related to possible emission of dioxins. This study compares the relative merit and reliability of four sampling approaches aimed at quantifying the possible pollution patterns surrounding the incinerator: short-term versus long-term isokinetic flue gas sampling, spatial sampling of grasses and a novel approach, based on local composite sampling of ten eggs from backyard chickens (local area pollution load averaging by accumulating bio-entities). Based on the latter approach results of a new analytical bioassay, DR CALUX®, from 15 locations near Harlingen harbour show distinct above-threshold dioxin levels in the environs of the incinerator.
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