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1.  Human biomonitoring of heavy metals in the vicinity of non-ferrous metal plants in Ath, Belgium 
A previous study revealed an environmental contamination by heavy metals in the vicinity of two non-ferrous metal plants in Ath, Belgium. The purpose of the current cross-sectional study was to estimate exposure of the population to heavy metals in the vicinity of the plants, in comparison with population living further away.
We did a random sampling in the general population of Ath in two areas: a central area, including the plants, and a peripheral area, presumably less exposed. We quantified cadmium, lead, nickel, chromium and cobalt in blood and/or urine of children and adults in three age groups: (i) children aged 2.5 to 6 years (n = 98), (ii) children aged 7 to 11 years (n = 74), and (iii) adults aged 40 to 60 years (n = 106). We also studied subclinical health effects by quantifying retinol-binding protein and microalbuminuria, and by means of a Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire.
We obtained a participation rate of 24 %. Blood lead levels were significantly higher in young children living in the central area (18.2 μg/l ; 95 % CI: 15.9–20.9) compared to the peripheral area (14.8 μg/l ; 95 % CI: 12.6–17.4). We observed no other significant mean difference in metal concentrations between the two areas. In the whole population, blood lead levels were higher in men (31.7 μg/l ; 95 % CI: 27.9–36.1) than in women (21.4 μg/l ; 95 % CI: 18.1–25.3). Urine cadmium levels were 0.06 μg/g creatinine (95 % CI: 0.05–0.07), 0.21 μg/g creatinine (95 % CI: 0.17–0.27), and 0.25 μg/g creatinine (95 % CI: 0.20–0.30) for children, men, and women, respectively.
Despite higher blood lead levels in young children living close to the plants, observed metal concentrations remain in the range found in other similar biomonitoring studies in the general population and are below the levels of concern for public health.
PMCID: PMC5047349  PMID: 27729976
Human biomonitoring; Heavy metals; Lead; Cadmium; Biomarkers; Retinol-binding protein; Albumin
2.  Human biomonitoring on heavy metals in Ath: methodological aspects 
Archives of Public Health  2011;69(1):10.
The municipality of Ath is characterised by the presence, in its center, of two non-ferrous metal industries whose emissions make local residents concerned for their health. Therefore, authorities of the Walloon Region and the municipality of Ath undertook biomonitoring to assess the impact of those industrial emissions on heavy metal body burden in humans.
This paper describes the study design and methodology used to carry out this human biomonitoring.
A random sampling was done in the general population, in two areas of Ath: an area centered around the industries and a peripheral area. The target population was children (2.5-11 years) and adults (40-60 years) without occupational exposure. The three-stage sampling procedure consisted of a mixture of both mail and telephone recruitment. Firstly, 3259 eligible people, identified from a population register, were mailed an introductory letter. In a second stage, eligible individuals were contacted by phone to propose them to participate in the study. They were randomly contacted until the required sample size was obtained. In the third stage, a second mail was sent to those who agreed to participate with a questionnaire to be filled out. Finally, biological samples (blood and urine) from 278 persons were collected. The final participation rate of this study was 24%.
This sampling procedure, especially designed for the purpose of this biomonitoring study in Ath, allowed us to recruit a sample representative of the population of children and adults of Ath, reaching the expected sample size in a short period of time.
PMCID: PMC3436742  PMID: 22958427
Ath; biomonitoring; heavy metals; methodology; sampling; study design
3.  Determinants of serum zinc in a random population sample of four Belgian towns with different degrees of environmental exposure to cadmium 
This report investigated the distribution of serum zinc and the factors determining serum zinc concentration in a large random population sample. The 1977 participants (959 men and 1018 women), 20–80 years old, constituted a stratified random sample of the population of four Belgian districts, representing two areas with low and two with high environmental exposure to cadmium. For each exposure level, a rural and an urban area were selected. The serum concentration of zinc, frequently used as an index for zinc status in human subjects, was higher in men (13.1 μmole/L, range 6.5–23.0 μmole/L) than in women (12.6 μmole/L, range 6.3–23.2 μmole/L). In men, 20% of the variance of serum zinc was explained by age (linear and squared term, R = 0.29), diurnal variation (r = 0.29), and total cholesterol (r = 0.16). After adjustment for these covariates, a negative relationship was observed between serum zinc and both blood (r = −0.10) and urinary cadmium (r = −0.14). In women, 11% of the variance could be explained by age (linear and squared term, R = 0.15), diurnal variation in serum zinc (r = 0.27), creatinine clearance (r = −0.11), log γ-glutamyltranspeptidase (r = 0.08), cholesterol (r = 0.07), contraceptive pill intake (r = −0.07), and log serum ferritin (r = 0.06). Before and after adjustment for significant covariates, serum zinc was, on average, lowest in the two districts where the body burden of cadmium, as assessed by urinary cadmium excretion, was highest. These results were not altered when subjects exposed to heavy metals at work were excluded from analysis.
PMCID: PMC1519594  PMID: 1486857
4.  Health effects of environmental exposure to cadmium: objectives, design and organization of the cadmibel study: a cross-sectional morbidity study carried out in Belgium from 1985 to 1989 
Cadmium is a cumulative environmental pollutant. For the general population mainly exposed by the oral route and through tobacco smoke inhalation, the kidney is the critical organ. Belgium is the principal producer of cadmium in Europe, and certain areas of the country are polluted by cadmium mainly because of past emissions from nonferrous industries. Preliminary studies carried out in one polluted area have suggested that environmental pollution might lead to an increased uptake of cadmium by the human body and possibly to health effects. Thus, a large-scale morbidity study has been initiated to assess the validity of this hypothesis. The present paper describes the protocol of this study. Its main objectives are to determine to what extent environmental exposure to cadmium resulting from industrial emissions may lead to accumulation of the metal in the human organism; to establish whether or not environmental exposure may induce renal changes and/or influence blood pressure; and to assess the acceptable internal dose of cadmium for the general population. The study design takes advantage of the fact that biological indicators of exposure, body burden, and early nephrotoxic effects of cadmium are available, which increase the likelihood of detecting a cause-effect relationship.
PMCID: PMC1567839  PMID: 2269233

Results 1-4 (4)