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Human biomonitoring on heavy metals in Ath: methodological aspects

DOI: 10.1186/0778-7367-69-10

Keywords: Ath, biomonitoring, heavy metals, methodology, sampling, study design

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Abstract:

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.The Belgian municipality of Ath is characterised by the presence, in the center of the town, of two industries of non-ferrous metals. The industries are known for their production of lead, cadmium, chromium, cobalt, nickel and zinc. Therefore, Ath may have long been polluted by the emissions of those industries. Furthermore, an environmental study had found relatively high levels of lead, cadmium, chromium, cobalt and nickel in the surface soil in the vicinity of these industries [1]. Health concerns rose among neighbors of this area due to the possible exposure to heavy metals and exposure-related health effects, especially for children living close to such sources. Therefore, the authorities of the Walloon Region and the municipality of Ath decided to undertake

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