Project Details


A 2013 report from the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) stated that more than 600 epidemiological studies published after 2006 investigated the linkage between pesticide exposure and health outcomes, with cancer, metabolic diseases, infertility, neurological disorders and issues related to child health as primary focuses. Recent data suggest that childhood would represent a particularly vulnerable period during which exposure to pollutants possibly acting as endocrine disruptors, could lead to short-term affections as well as to diseases in the adult. Despite the huge efforts carried out in the field, numerous results however remain controversial, and epidemiological studies often fail to confirm the results obtained from in vitro or animal-based studies. Indeed, the difficulty in correctly and accurately assessing mid- and long-term pesticide exposure represents one of the main limitations to the study of exposure-associated effects.
The study of exposure-associated diseases requires accurate assessment of the exposure that can be conducted through different approaches. Biomonitoring, consisting in the determination of pollutants and their by-products in biological samples directly collected from the individuals, represents one of the most relevant approaches, integrating all the different sources and routes of exposure. Mainly because of logistical and financial constraints, an exposure assessment most often relies on a single blood or urine sample per individual. For most chemicals, the high variability in the short-term plasma and urinary concentration induces a dramatic loss of statistical power, thereby hindering exposure−outcome association studies.
In parallel to urine and blood which have been classically used for the biomonitoring of exposure, increasing interest has been observed for hair analysis. In this context, our team published several studies demonstrating the possibility to detected pollutants from different chemical classes in hair. More recently, we also demonstrated in an animal model that concentration of chemicals in hair was significantly associated with the level of exposure and provided more reliable information than urine and blood. The latter results further strengthen the relevance of hair for assessing exposure.
Thanks to the efforts conducted over the past 10 years on analytical development and mechanistic approaches, HBRU can currently be considered in a leading position at the international level regarding the biomonitoring of pollutants exposure based on hair analysis. This position generated an increasing demand from internal and external partners in Luxembourg and abroad.
Nevertheless, some scientific gaps still need to be addressed in order to consolidate hair-based exposure assessment. Although this matrix proved its superiority over biological fluids such as urine and blood, one of the main gaps to fill lies in the lack of reference values of pollutant concentration in human hair which still limits the possibility of benchmarking data obtained from new epidemiological studies. In order to fill this gap, the present project aims at assessing exposure to various pollutants including pesticides and other endocrine disruptors in children populations from different geographical areas. Results will be used to highlight differences in the exposure between different areas but also between children within each area. Results will help to document public databases focused on biomonitoring where such information is still needed. Providing the first reference values of pollutant concentrations in hair obtained from different populations worldwide is a unique opportunity to “write history” and further confirm the position of LIH as a leader in the field of biomonitoring.
In parallel, we observed in studies conducted at HBRU on a limited number of children, that individuals living in the same area (region, city) may have highly different exposure profiles (different pollutants, different levels of exposure). In counterpart, we also observed a high degree of similarities in the exposure between children from the same family. We therefore noticed that it was qualitatively possible to identify siblings out of a population, on the basis of their exposure profile only. This observation was made possible thanks to the highly sensitive and comprehensive methods that was developed at HBRU for the assessment of exposure. Such breakthrough have never been demonstrated hitherto, and allow to clearly demonstrate that on top of sharing common genes, siblings also share common exposome, at least during childhood. These results are particularly relevant in the current context of increasing knowledge on the interactions between genes and environment and the possible consequences on the onset of several diseases, as reported for reproduction and development, cancer or Parkinson disease.
Effective start/end date1/04/1731/12/20


  • Espace Santé du Littoral site de Grande-Synthe: €75,000.00


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