Biomonitoring of citizens living near metal shredder sites in Wallonia


Recruitment for human biomonitoring around metal shredder sites in Wallonia

Teens living near Wallonia’s 7 metal shredders will receive a letter inviting them to take part in a biomonitoring study to assess health risks.

Are people living near metal shredders more exposed to metals, PCBs and other pollutants than the general population?

In order to answer this question and then support its recommendations, last October the Walloon Government commissioned ISSeP to carry out biomonitoring to determine the levels of impregnation in the vicinity of the seven active metal grinding sites in Wallonia. The name of the study: BIOBRO.

Biomonitoring gives an idea of overall exposure to pollutants, by measuring what is present in the body through blood, urine or hair. It involves several phases: informing and recruiting citizens, collecting biological samples and submitting a questionnaire, carrying out laboratory analyses, then drafting and communicating reports to participants and all citizens.

After the preparatory phase, the project is on track. Since December, ISSeP has been working with the municipalities directly concerned by these sites. A number of meetings have already been held to inform the public, recruit participants and organize the sampling sessions.

Currently, the aim is to recruit 500 teenagers, aged between 12 and 19, who have been living around one of Wallonia’s 7 metal shredders for at least 5 years. Around the Beez, Aubange, Engis and Marchienne-au-Pont sites, the ISSeP is looking for 50 teenage volunteers to take part in this Environment-Health study. Around the Châtelet, Courcelles and Obourg sites, we want to mobilize 100 teenagers . Blood and urine samples will be taken from each of them. Each teenager, with the help of their parents, will also complete a questionnaire on their eating habits, their home, their environment…

The BIOBRO project will also assess the environmental quality of indoor dust in homes around shredders. ISSeP will therefore also be offering biomonitoring participants and all citizens living in the study area the opportunity to provide their vacuum cleaner bag or bin contents. A single analysis of house dust will be carried out for each sector. Our aim is to determine whether pollutant concentrations vary from one area to another and also in relation to non-riparian areas, for which samples will also be collected. The more vacuum cleaner “bags” ISSeP collects from each sector, the more representative the results will be.

Over the next few weeks, local residents living in the study area around one of the 7 Walloon shredders will receive an information letter in their letterbox inviting them to take part in the BIOBRO project. This invitation to participate concerns teenagers for the ‘Biomonintoring’ component and all local residents for the ‘Indoor dust’ component. The recruitment/sampling campaign will run until July 2022. The final results of the project are expected in late summer 2023.

Citizen participation is one of the keys to the project’s success. Just as parents have an important role to play in inspiring their teenagers to learn about it, and even to get involved.

This project is being carried out in partnership with the laboratories of the University Hospital Service for Clinical, Forensic, Environmental and Corporate Toxicology at the CHU-Liège and the Louvain Centre for Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology (LTAP) at the Université Catholique de Louvain (UCLouvain), the Cliniques Universitaires Saint-Luc and Sciensano.

Press release dated March 29, 2022.

Further information:

Press contact:

ISSeP – Fabrice Terlonge – – GSM: + 32 (0)495 54 53 54