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.