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Environmental health and biomonitoring service

The activities of the environmental health and biomonitoring service are geared toward the detection of elements and chemicals in the home or office environment in order to allow the assessment of their impact on the health of the population.

Action on both the professional and domestic front

Within the context of occupational medicine, exposure assessments for hazardous substances in the workplace have been carried out for many years in collaboration with occupational health physicians. This synergy permits the definition of health risks for workers who are likely to contract an occupational illness.

In collaboration with the Department of Occupational Health and the Environment at the Ministry of Health, the laboratory of the environmental health and biological monitoring service supports the implementation of sampling and analysis in connection with the domestic environment. It is well known that long-term exposure to certain substances that are present in the domestic environment, such as volatile organic substances, biocides, flame retardants, polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), phthalates, heavy metals, etc. can lead to allergies, chronic irritation and other harmful or debilitating diseases.

Biological monitoring persons who have been exposed in a non-occupational context, such as people who have dental amalgam fillings or haemodialysis patients, can also provide specific information on their impregnation and thus enable appropriate action to be taken in a timely manner.

In collaboration with the competent authorities (SecuAlim, ILNAS, AEV), the service assists in monitoring the marketplace and focusses on the detection of contaminants of concern such as heavy metals in food, allergens such as nickel or hexavalent chromium. Monitoring phthalates in toys can protect children from these endocrine disruptors.

The grouping of these special analyses at the LNS in these highly sensitive areas provides assurance of impartial and objective treatment, with quality confirmed by the ISO 17025 accreditation of the laboratory. Also, the implementation of sampling and analysis in situ by specially trained staff of the service contributes to the impartiality and quality of the results.

Targeting and monitoring the impact of environmental pollution on our health

Biolmonitoring can recognise, identify and monitor the impact of environmental pollution on the health of individuals. This can be done in the environment by measuring the concentration of microorganisms and offending substances. This type of monitoring, however, only allows an approximation of the impact on humans since it does not take into account individual characteristics, such as body weight, activity level, personal hygiene, metabolism, antioxidant capacity or the local and temporal variables needed to assess exposure, such as ventilation of premises and other physical parameters. It provides nevertheless valuable information to environmental professionals and physicians allowing them to target the sources of pollution.

Interpretation of the results is not simple since concentrations of hazardous substances are relatively low, and cause and effect can be difficult to determine. This is why we increasingly tend to apply precautionary principles in cases of chronic long-term exposure.

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