Since the mid-eighties, a sand pit located at the boundary of Mellery, a small village in Belgium, has been used as a dumping ground for industrial waste. After a particularly dry summer, many people complained of very foul smells coming from the dumping ground. An analysis of the environmental atmosphere detected alkanes and chlorinated saturated and unsaturated hydrocarbons in various concentrations. Consequently, the Belgian Ministry of the Environment requested additional measurements from the dumping site and the surrounding regions. Given the hazards and possible ill health effects associated with simultaneous exposure to low levels of many chemicals, biomarkers of personal exposure were measured in a representative group of people living in this village. The cytogenetic consequences of daily exposure to a mixture of genotoxicants were measured by the Sister Chromatid Exchange assay. The study included a group of 51 environmentally exposed persons (including 11 children) and 52 controls. A significant increase in Sister Chromatid Exchange frequency was detected among the inhabitants of the village compared to that of the control group, especially among the children living in Mellery as compared to the matched control children.

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