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Arsenic impregnation study of children to be launched in September

The HydroSciences laboratory in Montpellier will initiate the search for the children being monitored.

Arsenic impregnation - In June 2019, parents from the Orbiel Valley had rallied the hospital centre for analyses.
In June 2019, parents from the Orbiel valley had rallied to the hospital for analyses. - N. Amen-Vals

In June 2019, the revelation of out-of-standard levels of arsenic in the urine of three children schooled in Mas-Cabardès and Lastours acted as a detonator around the issue of the health and environmental impact of the Orbiel valley's mining past; a return to the forefront of a sensitive subject, a late echo of the major floods of October 2018.Between local information commissions, site monitoring commission, multiplication of analyses carried out by the Regional Health Agency (ARS) Occitania among children under 11 years old, presentation of an action plan by the State, announcements of work by the Bureau of Geological and Mining Research (BRGM), the question continues since to agitate the valley.

And to mobilise the associations for the defence of local residents who, on 1 July, took the initiative of a screening operation, relying on the laboratory toxSeek, to go in search of traces of 49 heavy metals and other toxins in the hair of a hundred or so inhabitants of the valley. The overall results should be available in a few weeks. This will coincide with the start of another study, of which the valley's mayors were informed in August.

Results in a few months

In September, the "Mining pollution, environment and health" team of the Montpellier HydroSciences laboratory, a joint research unit (UMR) of the University of Montpellier, the Institute of Research for Development (IRD) and the National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS), will conduct a study of arsenic impregnation in children aged 3 to 11. This initiative is being carried out in partnership with the ARS Occitanie, with two territories at the heart of the initiative: the Orbiel valley and the Cévennes gardoises. Two sites whose mining past obviously justifies HydroSciences going in search of 150 children domiciled in communes located around former mining sites (Salsigne, Villanière, Lastours in the Aude, Saint-Laurent-le-Minier, Saint-Sébastien-d'Aigrefeuille and Croix-de-Pallières in the Gard). Once the "recruitment" of the children has been completed, three doctors will take morning urine samples, followed by analysis to measure the various forms of arsenic (and potentially other metals if detected), but also to examine the lifestyles of the children selected, from their activities to their diet. All these tools will help to better read the levels found, which will then be compared with the results of analyses devoted to 150 other children selected in so-called control sites, within nearby municipalities but not exposed to mining pollution.

This approach will make it possible to quantify the difference in exposure of these populations by the end of 2020, early 2021.