The Belgian BioElectroMagnetics group (BBEMG) is a consortium of research groups from different Belgian universities or research institutes which conduct research on magnetic fields, as from power lines. Our contribution to this 2021-2025 project involves a cytogenetic biomonitoring in the inhabitants of Brussels (in collaboration with our partners from ULB-ESP), in addition to the cytogenetic biomonitoring carried out on occupationally exposed persons during the previous 2017-2021 period. A cytogenetic biomonitoring means that the genetic material of cells is analysed for changes that may have been caused by exposure to an agent that can damage or alter the genetic material of a living organism, such as DNA. In addition, Sciensano evaluates the possibilities of carrying out an epidemiological study on leukemia and degenerative diseases (Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s) in relation to exposure to 50 Hz electromagnetic fields in Belgium. We also organiseorganize a risk perception study among the Belgian farming community.
During the previous 2017-2021 period of the BBEMG contract, we carried out cytogenetic biomonitoring on a sample of employees in the electricity sector. In the new 2021-2025 project, we carry out the same cytogenetic tests among the inhabitants of Brussels (in collaboration with our partners from ULB-ESP). This cytogenetic biomonitoring involves the use of specific laboratory tests, namely comet assay and micronucleus test, at the cellular level to assess potential cytogenetic damage in the blood cells of inhabitants more and less exposed to 50 Hz. In addition, Sciensano conducts a feasibility study for an epidemiological study in Belgium to assess the risks of developing childhood leukemia or Alzheimer’s disease in relation to exposure to 50 Hz magnetic fields. In collaboration with UGent and HoGent, we also develop a survey among farmers and livestock breeders in Belgium in order to assess the current situation regarding electromagnetic fields, crops and animals. The results of this first survey will be used to further develop the knowledge on this subject. In addition, depending on demand, we will participate in information sessions for the general public. We are also involved in the activities of the Belgian Health Council (non-ionising radiation section).