Luxembourgh Times

Each hair on your head contains 19 noxious chemicals

Results reveal impact of Luxembourg's industrial past and the increased use of pesticides

Luxembourg's industrial past has been cited as a factor in the results

Luxembourg's industrial past has been cited as a factor in the results © Photo credit: Gerry Huberty

Each hair on the head of a Luxembourg resident holds an average of nineteen pollutants - including some that are banned - researchers have found, a fact they attribute to the country's industrial past and increasing use of pesticides.

The Luxembourg Institute of Health analysed hair samples from 2007-2008 to assess exposure to 67 different organic pesticides in 497 adults representative of the population of the Grand Duchy.

The lead scientist behind the study, Brice Appenzeller, is confident that many of the pollutants are still present in the population. "We are still exposed to these persistent pollutants", he said in a phone interview.

In a few months, the LIH will publish new analysis of children's hair samples, which is likely to show that these pollutants from years ago are also present in the younger population, Appenzeller said.

"It took a lot of time and resources to collect the samples and to analyse them, and we had a large data set from those years in relation to a study on cardiovascular disease", Appenzeller said.

"We did a new study of samples in the years 2017-2018 but currently we lack funding to undertake the analysis of that, and we're hoping the National Research Fund or the Health Ministry will assist us," Appenzeller added.

The discoveries of pesticides in the samples is noteworthy as "the production and use of many of the detected pesticides was banned in most European countries over the last decades", the LIH said in a press release.

Their presence may be attributable to the persistence of these chemicals in the environment, their progressive release from soil and vegetation and their presence in food. Imported food from countries with less restrictions and regulations governing the use of pesticide could also be a factor, according to the LIH.

"Although environmental exposure to pollutants is known to be associated with adverse health outcomes, few studies have so far evaluated the exposure of general populations to multiple contaminants", the LIH said.

The research institute is set to use the analysis to assist further studies on the effects of the combined pollutants on public health.

Luxembourg has recently drawn criticism from the OECD group of wealthy nations, which urged the country to step up its efforts to meet its pollution and climate change targets.