January 17, 2020: Press conference on the human biomonitoring campaign in Wallonia

Launch of the first human biomonitoring campaign in Wallonia


Are people in Wallonia more exposed to endocrine disruptors than elsewhere in Europe? What is the exposure rate to older pollutants found in the environment? Are some geographic zones more sensitive than others? It was to answer such questions that the Institut Scientifique de Service Public was commissioned to launch the first human biomonitoring program in Wallonia. In concrete terms, the recruitment of 900 volunteers is underway and will be completed by March. It’s an essential new tool for the benefit of the environment and the health of Wallonia’s inhabitants.

On an anonymous basis, 900 Walloons are currently being recruited to give blood and urine samples to measure levels of impregnation with a range of chemical substances present in indoor and outdoor air, food, packaging and everyday products. These are pollutants and chemicals, both emerging and older:
– certain endocrine disruptors such as bisphenol A and its alternatives, notably in plastic packaging materials.
– certain pesticides currently in use (such as glyphosate)
– substances used several years ago (such as DDT).
– other substances such as metals or POPs (Persistent Organic Pollutants)

To date, almost 200 people, including over 50 newborns and around 150 teenagers and adults, have already been recruited and are taking part in this first large-scale study in Wallonia. By the end of March, the sampling of 900 people should be complete. In this launch phase, the human biomonitoring campaign targets 3 categories: newborns, teenagers (12-19 years) and young adults (20-39 years).
Initial results are expected within two years.
The anonymized data obtained via human biomonitoring will be used to assess the impregnation of Wallonia’s population with substances of health concern, and the need to implement specific preventive measures.
At the same time, human biomonitoring will make it possible..:
– specific reference concentrations for the Walloon population;
– determine whether certain age groups are more exposed;
– determine whether impregnation is the same for both sexes;
– determine the influence of the type of place of residence (urban/rural/agricultural/industrial);
– determine whether Walloon exposure to substances is similar to or different from exposure in other (European) countries with similar socio-economic levels;

Céline Tellier, Walloon Minister for the Environment, is delighted with this new tool: “A budget of one million euros has been released for this human biomonitoring campaign. This will enable us to objectify the exposure of the most vulnerable population, such as babies, to certain pollutants, notably endocrine disruptors and pesticides. I call on all partners contacted by ISSEP to participate actively in this study.”
The public cannot apply spontaneously: in order to cover the whole of Wallonia and target the right categories of applicants, relay organizations are selected and then contacted directly by the ISSeP (schools, maternity wards, social promotion training centers, clubs, associations, youth movements, public bodies, etc.).

This biomonitoring study of the Walloon population is being carried out in partnership with the laboratories of the University Hospital Service of Clinical, Forensic, Environmental and Corporate Toxicology of the CHU-Liège and the Louvain Centre for Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology (LTAP) of the Université Catholique de Louvain (UCL).
“Thanks to the work in progress, we will soon have the first Walloon study on people’s environmental health. This will enable us to determine the population’s levels of impregnation with chemical substances present in the environment, and to take any necessary public health measures, particularly in terms of prevention and protection”, explains Christie Morreale, Walloon Minister of Health.

The human biomonitoring project is part of the ENVIeS 2019-2023 Plan (Walloon Environment-Health Plan) adopted by the Walloon Government, which aims to study and limit environmental risks to human health through 79 concrete actions. The first results of this first human biomonitoring campaign are expected within two years.

For more information: https://www.issep.be/biomonitoring/