New Results 3xG study Dessel-Mol-Retie

Endocrine disruptors such as phthalates are present in our body. But by making healthy choices we can reduce our exposure to these substances. That is what team from the 3xG study says. This study, commissioned by NIRAS, and partnerships MONA and STORA, examined the presence of a group of endocrine disrupting substances in 301 pregnant women from the Dessel, Mol and Retie region in Flanders. The research team observed how these substances end up in the body, and derived recommendations to limit the exposure to these substances. These not only apply to pregnant mothers, but also, in extension, to everyone in the region.

The 3xG study monitors environmental health in the Dessel, Mol, Retie region and focuses on a specific theme each year. In 2017 there was the well water campaign. Now the focus is on phthalates, a group of endocrine disruptors that is mainly present in plastics. The 3xG team examined urine samples from 301 pregnant women from Dessel, Mol and Retie. The results confirm that we are constantly exposed to endocrine disruptors. Greet Schoeters (on behalf of the 3xG team): “We detected phthalates in the urine of all the women studied. Phthalates are rapidly broken down in the body, but they remain constantly present in each of us by being exposed to them every day. Phthalates are present in many daily products: from shampoo and day cream to toys and in plastics and other plastic materials that make products flexible.”

Avoiding endocrine disruptors

Phthalates can disrupt the normal functioning of our hormones already at a low dose. “We found subtle correlations between phthalate concentrations in the urine and early signs of cell damage. This cell damage is reversible, but can accumulate with prolonged exposure.”

We can also take action ourselves to limit our exposure to endocrine disruptors. “A remarkable finding in the 3xG study is that people who ventilate their homes well have a lower level of polluting phthalates in their bodies. In addition, we found that mothers who are building or renovating, have many PVC materials in their homes, make frequent use of care products or smoke, have higher levels of phthalates in their body."

Belgium as a pioneer

The 3xG study provides the tools to limit exposure to endocrine disrupting substances. At the policy level too, the results are important: we see that for some phthalates the levels are decreasing over time. Policy measures that impose restrictions can therefore be effective. “Our research results can help our country adopt better European regulations on endocrine disruptors.”

Week of the ‘super healthy Kempen region’

In March 2019, 3xG launches a campaign in the week of the Keigezonde Kempen, with concrete advice on how we can limit the exposure to phthalates. For this, the team is working together with relevant partners in the region.

Background information

What is 3xG?

At the request of the local partnerships STORA (Dessel) and MONA (Mol), NIRAS is carrying out the 3xG study. 3xG stands for Gezondheid – Gemeenten – Geboorten (Health – Municipalities – Births). The study is a collaboration between VITO, the University of Antwerp and the Provincial Institute for Hygiene (PIH). It monitors the health of the inhabitants of Dessel, Mol and Retie and monitors the effects of the environment and lifestyle. 301 children have been followed since birth. In addition, the disease and mortality figures in the region are compared with figures in Flanders and Belgium every five years.