IMPASTRA - Assessment of the impact of road traffic exposure on the health of the Brussels population: pilot project on individuals subjected to low and high levels of exposure

Last updated on 14-12-2022 by Pierre Daubresse
Project duration:
January 1, 2016
June 30, 2017

In short

Air pollution is involved in the expression of various pathologies. According to the European Environment Agency, it is estimated to have caused almost 12,000 premature deaths in Belgium in 2013. Urban populations and certain professions appear to be particularly at risk.

This project is part of the continuous exposure measurement campaign conducted by Brussels Environment. It aims to enhance the campaign by incorporating a component that assesses the effects of air pollution on health.

Project description

This project consists of a feasibility study aimed at:

  1. complementing existing particulate matter (black carbon) exposure measurements undertaken by Brussels Environment among certain workers in Brussels by gathering additional data on their health status; and
  2. assessing the possibilities of organising a large-scale epidemiological study on the subject.

This work comprises several steps: development of the health component, obtaining the necessary authorisations from an ethics committee, rollout of the “enhanced” measurement campaign and analysis of the data.

The developed health component is based on a questionnaire, a logbook and the analysis of two effect biomarkers (measurement of exhaled NO and urinary 8-hydroxy-2’-deoxyguanosine). It will be used to describe the overall state of health of the participants, as well as several parameters more specifically linked to the respiratory, cardiovascular and nervous systems and to inflammatory processes. In parallel, and in order to widen the scope of the project, five other biomarkers of exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and benzene have been developed.

The data collection campaign is focused on various professions involved in monitoring and maintaining Brussels parks and, therefore, exposed to different degrees of air pollutants depending on the location of their workplace and the nature of their duties. It involves a sample of 50 participants, who are each followed up at their workplace for four consecutive days. At the end of the project, all volunteers will receive personal feedback on their results. The data will be compiled so that possible associations between exposure to atmospheric pollutants and health parameters can be investigated.

This exploratory study will, within the limits of its scale, contribute to a better knowledge of the potential health effects associated with air pollution and the biological mechanisms involved. It is also an essential prerequisite for the organisation of a more comprehensive study on the subject. More generally, this project will allow Sciensano to enhance its expertise in the field of biomonitoring.

Added value for public health

Better knowledge on the:

  • levels of air pollution to which Brussels city-workers are currently exposed
  • health “consequences” of this exposure
  • individual/professional/environmental factors associated with high exposure to air pollution and important health effects

On the long term, development of prevention programs to reduce exposure to air pollution and to limit health effects.

Added value at scientific level

  • development of new biomonitoring techniques at Sciensano
  • characterisation of the relationships between the different exposure measures and health parameters
  • better understanding of the toxicological mechanisms associatd with air pollution
  • exploring the potential of conducting larger epidemiological investigations on the health effects of indoor and outdoor pollutants

Sciensano's project investigator(s):

Service(s) working on this project

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