In the media


Our hair doesn't lie: court increasingly detects drug or alcohol use via hair analysis. Alexander van Nuijs on VRT, 9 March 2024 (in Dutch)


A Belgian study led by Tim Nawrot finds that exposure to air pollution increases the length of hospital stays for Covid-19 patients. Air quality news, Azo Cleantech, 21 June 2023 

Lieven Bervoets answers 5 questions about "Hoe gevaarlijk zijn PFAS?" (how dangerous are PFAS?), HLN, 22 May 2023


Philippe Jorens comments on "Antwerpse ziekenhuizen merken opvallende stijging van complexe longontstekingen bij kinderen: “Bacterie die ze veroorzaakt is veranderd, en maakt hen ook langer ziek”, HLN, 20 December 2022

ANTWERPEN LIVE. Diensthoofd intensieve zorgen UZA (Philippe Jorens): “Meer dan ooit stijgend aantal streptokokinfecties van de luchtwegen bij kinderen”, GVA video, 21 December 2022

​The research team of Lieven Bervoets analysed apple juice from orchards in Zwijndrecht and found high concentrations of PFAS. VRT news and De wereld morgen, 27 October 2022

Lieven Bervoets was interviewed by radio 1 (World Today) regarding the remediation of PFAS-contaminated land in Zwijndrecht, 19 October 2022

The ground-breaking findings by scientists at the University of Aberdeen (UK), and UHasselt (Tim Nawrot's team) published in Lancet Planetary Health show that babies have air pollution in their lungs and brains before they take their first breath. University of Aberdeen press, The new Indian Express, 5 October 2022

Tim Nawrot comments on why Belgium does not "like it hot", The Brussels Time, 9 August 2022

Lieven Bervoets at the Hoboken Blikfabriek. At the request of the citizens' collective Landrecht, scientific and legal experts came to inform them about the state of affairs in the files concerning 3M and Oosterweel. Read about "Grondrecht organiseert eerste PFAS-forum: Overheid heeft van Oosterweelwerf illegaal stort gemaakt" on GVA and Nieuwsblad, 20 March 2022​


Marcel Eens, Lieven Bervoets, Thimo Groffen and Robin Lasters about "Waarom kwam PFAS-vervuiling niet sneller in de aandacht?", De Standaard, 5 July 2021

Lieven Bervoets on PFOS pollution "Het ging toch beter met de waterkwaliteit? Hoe zit dat dan nu met die PFOS-vervuiling?", VRT news, 23 June 2021

INTERVIEW. Ecotoxico­loog Lieven Bervoets waarschuwt voor overdreven paniek: “PFOS was 30 jaar geleden wellicht groter probleem”, Het Laaste Nieuws, 24 June 2021

Lieven Bervoets on "Het ging toch beter met de waterkwaliteit? Hoe zit dat dan nu met die PFOS-vervuiling?", VRT news, 23 June 2021

Lieven Bervoets explains what PFOS and PFAS are, how they spread and how worried we should be about them: "Wat zijn PFOS en PFAS? Hoe verspreiden ze zich? En hoe ongerust moeten we erover zijn?", VRT NWS, 15 June 2021

Lieven Bervoets: “10 jaar geleden lagen concentraties PFOS in kippeneieren van Zwijndrecht vijf keer hoger", Radio 1, Monday 14 June 2021

Tim Boogaerts (TC) talked about drugs and alcohol consumption measured in wastewater, when interviewed by Kobe Ilsen for the tv show #weetikveel, 22 March 2021

Tim Nawrot features in "Air pollution significantly increases risk for heart attack and stroke, study shows", The Brussels Times, 26 February 2021​


Covid-19 Crisis: Aantal ziekenhuisopnames daalt niet meer. Intensivist Philippe Jorens: “Druk op ziekenhuizen wordt erg groot”, HLN, 8 December 2020​

Tim Nawrot was consulted by the Polish government regarding the extremely high air pollution due to coal use in the Katowice area: "Polish children exposed to four times more pollution than French, study finds",, 10 October 2020 and "Rakotwórczy "czarny węgiel" w moczu dzieci z Rybnika. Rezultat oddychania smogiem" (Carcinogenic "black carbon" in urine of children from Rybnik. The result of smog breathing),, 11 October 2020

Lieven Bervoets was interviewed in "Tijd om ook het ongelijkheidsvirus te tackelen", De Standaard, 9 September 2020 

Lieven Bervoets on "Ben je tegen vooruitgang als je pleit voor een consumptiepatroon dat de wereld nog aankan?", Knack, 3 September 2020

Covid-19 Crisis: Philippe Jorens on "Is wetenschappelijk onderzoek minder degelijk sinds COVID-19?", Knack, 10 August 2020

Alexander van Nuijs about poison gas novichok, De Morgen, August 2020

Alexander van Nuijs, Peter Delputte, Tim Boogaerts, and Naomi De Roeck investigate whether the monitoring of wastewater in Flanders can be used to monitor the course of the coronavirus infections in the population "Leert afvalwater ons hoeveel mensen effectief met het coronavirus besmet zijn?", Coronablog UAntwerpen - UZA,  20 August 2020

New study species: Marwa Kavelaars was interviewed for De Standard on orientation in pigeons, 07 August 2020

Covid-19 Crisis: Listen to : "Is wetenschappelijk onderzoek minder degelijk sinds COVID-19?", Universiteit van Vlaanderen, 9 July, 2020

Lieven Bervoets gave his opinion on "Maak van de luchtvaartsector een publieke dienst", VRT news, 06 June 2020

Philippe Jorens (LEMP) and Tim Nawrot (UHasselt) are investigating whether air pollution endangers corona patients: "Vlaamse wetenschappers onderzoeken of luchtvervuiling coronapatiënten meer in gevaar brengt", VRT-NWS, 19 May 2020; "Wetenschappers onderzoeken of luchtvervuiling voor hoger sterftecijfer bij coronapatiënten zorgt", GVA, 19 May 2020 

Covid-19 Crisis: Professor Philippe Jorens (UZA): "We zijn ons in de ziekenhuizen ongelooflijk goed aan het voorbereiden", VRT news, 19 March 2020

Covid-19 Crisis: Philippe Jorens on "Intensive care UZ Antwerpen is klaar voor de crisis: ‘Eind deze week begint het echt’", De Morgen, 17 March 2020​

Adrian Covaci & Giulia Poma (Toxicological Center) on pollutants in edible insects "Eetbare insecten bevatten weinig vervuilende stoffen", Het Laaste Nieuws, 16 January 2020

Lieven Bervoets (SPHERE) on consumption behaviour "Tijd om reclame voor vlees, auto’s en vliegtuigreizen te verbieden", DeMorgen, 13 January 2020

Seminars, workshops and conferences

Coming soon: Exposome Day, University of Antwerp

Dioxin 2023, 43rd International Symposium on Halogenated Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs), 10-14 September 2023, Maastricht, The Netherlands

Dermal bioaccessibility of metal(loid)s from polluted soils and permeation through synthetic skinProf. Gerald J. ZAGURY, Eng., M. Env., Ph D, Polytechnique Montréal, Montreal (QC), CANADA07 APRIL 2023, 9.30-10.00h, CDE (room R008)

Exposomics – A bridge to Japan23 AUGUST 2022, 14.00-16.30, CDE (room O.03)

Where can you find us?

Dag Van De Wetenschap (26/11/2023)

Antwerpen à la carte (MAS expositie)

UAntwerpen Infodag (2/09/2023) 

Nerdland 2023 (26-28 May 2023), Toxicological Centre visits Nerdland Festival (YouTube link)

Wetenschap Centraal (28/09/2022), YouTube link

About our projects

FLEXiGUT: The Flemish exposome project

How do our surroundings influence our health?

In the simplest terms, health is the total sum of the effect of genes, behaviour, and surroundings. But of course, we cannot just change our genes. Therefore, if we want to avoid getting sick, it is more productive to consider influencing our behaviour and surroundings. Ghent University, the University of Antwerp, KU Leuven, and Hasselt University are pooling their expertise in the first large scale ‘exposome’ research project in Flanders.

Thanks to the decoding of the human genome, scientists gained a better understanding of many diseases, leading to numerous new treatments. However, researchers realised that not all illnesses could be explained on the basis of genetic factors. Our behaviour (for example how often we exercise, what is our diet or our stress level) and environmental factors (such as the pollution, living environment, air quality, climate) also influence our health. We call the totality of these non-genetic factors "exposome", a highly variable and dynamic entity that evolves throughout the entire lifetime of an individual and which, together with our genome, determines whether one becomes sick or stays healthy.

“The genome and exposome are very closely linked to one another,” explains Sarah De Saeger (UGent), nutrition expert and coordinator of the Flemish Exposome Project. “For example, you might be genetically predisposed to develop a certain type of cancer, however it is your exposome that determines whether you will get sick, when, and to what extent. The characterisation of the exposome is therefore maybe even more attractive than the genome in terms of preventative medicine. In particular because, unlike the genome, our exposome is something we can actually influence and change. We can adjust our behaviour and also many environmental factors, and thereby reduce the risk of certain health effects.”

Of course, to do this, one first needs to identify and understand which and to what extent environmental factors have an impact on our health. Thanks to iBOF funding (a new interuniversity source of funding, eds.), researchers from the universities of Ghent, Antwerp, Leuven, and Hasselt will work together in the coming 4 years to map as many as possible of these crucial environmental factors. “We are looking into the big wide world outside our bodies, as well as into the microworld inside us, and we do this in relation to the whole life span, from foetuses to adults. This is a unique approach”, explains De Saeger. “In the past, researchers often investigated one specific chemical substance and its impact on one disease. Now, we are approaching this from three different perspectives: external contaminants, processes in our body, and genetics.”

The link between our surroundings and our health

The aim of the Flemish Exposome project is to collect in the first place new insights into the impact of environmental factors on the development of gut and metabolism related disorders, including diabetes, obesity, metabolic syndrome, food allergies, and gastrointestinal cancers. De Saeger mentions: “The project brings together two cohort studies (scientific studies which follow one group of people over a long period) along with partners who collect additional data on environmental factors. The Limburg Birth Cohort study, run by environmental epidemiologist Tim Nawrot (Hasselt University) follows children starting from birth. The researchers take a sample of blood from the umbilical cord at birth, and also store the placenta. This allows them to determine the extent to which the baby has been exposed, for example, to soot particles from air pollution or environmental contaminants, even before birth. The other cohort study, the Flemish Gut Flora Project, is based at KU Leuven. Here, the research group headed by microbiologist Jeroen Raes is mapping the bacteria that live in our gut (the microbiome). They are also looking for possible links between disturbances to our gut flora and different diseases.

The samples from both cohorts are then analysed in the labs of the other partners. Toxicologist Adrian Covaci (University of Antwerp) is investigating plastic-related pollutants and pesticides which end up in our bodies through ingestion of food and dust or through contact with specific consumer products. Sarah De Saeger focuses on mycotoxins, poisonous substances that are produced by fungi that unintentionally end up in our food. Finally, bio-engineer Lynn Vanhaecke (Ghent University) will use metabolomics to make an all-inclusive ‘metabolic fingerprint’ and observe its relationship with that of the microbiome and pollutants, and to study what impact these substances have on our metabolome, microbiome and DNA.

Eirene research infrastructure

New bio-analytical infrastructure is on its way

EIRENE (Research infrastructure for EnvIRonmental Exposure assessmeNt in Europe) is a new bio-analytical infrastructure being built in Europe to better understand how environmental factors contribute to the rise of a number of chronic diseases in Europe.

EIRENE was included in the newly published Roadmap 2021 of the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI). This makes EIRENE one of eleven new top class European research infrastructures, which will be built in the next 10 years. The selected research infrastructures support excellent science in a wide range of disciplines.

EIRENE is based on the exposome concept in which the interaction of human and environment is central. EIRENE will build capacity through a multidisciplinary approach for environmental monitoring innovation, for population-based research on chemical exposure and downstream biological effects, for management, processing and interpretation of data. EIRENE is coordinated by the Czech Masaryk University and includes 50 research institutions from 17 countries, including Belgium. EIRENE builds on the existing expertise and analytical capacity generated through the European Human Biomonitoring Network HBM4EU. Specifically in Flanders, the Flemish Human Biomonitoring Program has been running for 20 years on behalf of the Flemish Government. These programs investigate the impact of chemical substances on human health. VITO, the University of Antwerp, KULeuven and the Flemish Environment Department will form the Flemish hub of EIRENE.