Theme I - Assessment of Population Exposures
The Chief Medical Officer’s 2017 annual report and the Toxic Chemicals in Everyday Life Inquiry by the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) both highlight the need for robust research to quantify UK exposures to environmental hazards. This theme combines direct and indirect methods of exposure assessment to improve our exposure knowledge. Human biomonitoring (HBM) and air sampling (both outdoor and indoor) will determine exposures to chemicals, metals, gases, nanoparticles, bioaerosols and e-cigarettes within sample populations. Modelling tools will be developed to predict UK population exposures.
Theme I Projects
Project outline: HBM of human samples is used to determine exposures to potential toxicants, typically using blood or urine. UKHSA is the UK lead for the Human Biomonitoring Initiative for Europe (HBM4EU). This project will build on the HBM4EU work to determine background chemical exposure levels within the English population.
Project outline: In collaboration with KCL, UKHSA has developed a policy on e-cigarette use for tobacco harm reduction. This project will address some outstanding safety and behavioural issues associated with e-cigarette use in three at-risk populations; 1) Pregnant women, 2) Vape shop workers and 3) Mental health patients.
Project outline: Acute CO poisoning is associated with lasting neurotoxicological effects. This Gas Safety Trust funded EDCO study is using patients attending Emergency Departments with symptoms typical of CO exposure to determine exposure prevalence. Additionally, untargeted metabolomics will be conducted to identify better biomarkers of CO exposure. This project will inform policies to mitigate health impacts.
Project outline: Domestic access to consumer products using advanced materials, especially nanomaterials, increases the potential for inhalation exposures to materials with ill-defined hazard profiles. The characteristics of aerosols produced during their use are not well understood. Thus, the objective of this project is to measure the concentrations, chemical content, temporal and size distributions of these aerosols to estimate indoor exposures to inform risk assessments.
Project outline: Previous HPRU studies indicated a need for improved bioaerosol exposure assessment, particularly bioaerosol dispersion models to replace distance as a proxy of exposure, and studies that combine exposure and health outcomes. Fungi are of particular interest as they are present in both outdoor and indoor air and are associated with asthma, allergies and complications in other respiratory diseases. This project will use molecular techniques, including metabarcoding, to better characterise the fungal composition of bioaerosol exposures within different environments; perform epidemiological studies with better measures models of bioaerosol exposure and determine cellular responses to fungal bioaerosols in vitro.
Project outline: Indoor air contains particulates, bioaerosols and chemicals that can adversely impact human health. This project will develop a microenvironmental exposure model to predict indoor concentrations of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and semi volatile organic compounds (SVOCs) in the home environment. Predicted exposures will be compared with experimental indoor VOC and SVOC measurements for validation. Predicted concentrations will be combined to assess cumulative risk from exposure to the most frequently occurring and health relevant VOCs and SVOCs. PCIEP methods will be used to research public perceptions of exposures and evaluate effective methods to communicate risk.