Smartphones used to detect air pollution in EU study

20 November 2012
By Anna Kårhammar
Mobile version
Share |
Air pollution

Air pollution

Environmental sensor-equipped, GPS-enabled smartphones are set to be used in researching possible adverse effects of chemicals exposure to the human body, in the EU’s biggest to-date investment into environmental health research.

The €8.7m Exposomics project sets out to study the potential hazards of chemical exposure to the body, while at the same time analysing blood and urine samples to determine risk factors and see whether a chemical fingerprint can be detected in bodily fluids.

“It has become clear that the diseases with the greatest burden, such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, are mainly caused by factors other than genetics. These are likely to include aspects of lifestyle and the environment, but the precise roles of different factors in causing diseases are not well understood,” said Professor Paolo Vineis, School of Public Health, Imperial College London.

The term ‘exposome’ refers to the environmental components affecting a person’s health over the course of their life time, including lifestyle factors and chemicals exposure.

“We are all exposed to low levels of environmental pollutants every day, such as diesel exhaust, tobacco smoke, and pesticides. It’s very difficult to assess the health effects of these exposures, because often there are no unexposed people to compare with,” Prof Vineis added.

In order to measure the exposomes, high-tech tools are being developed, particularly those focusing on air and water pollution during critical periods of life.

“This project will make use of new technologies that allow us to measure personal exposure to pollutants with much greater sensitivity and study their effects in the body. The results will help us develop a better understanding of how exposure to many different pollutants combine to influence our risk of diseases,” said Prof Vineis.

Researchers from 12 partner institutions, led by Imperial College London, are developing a personal exposure monitoring kit which could give a more detailed assessment of the study participants’ environment. 

The kit comes with a smartphone application, which records user activity and location, and measures air pollution via a plug-in sensor.

The researchers will also look for signatures left by risk factors inside the body, including changes in DNA, RNA, proteins and metabolites, and altered levels of chemicals in blood and urine.

Initial results are expected within the next two years.

“It is a major step forward to have European funding directed to this area of research, which is critical for effective prevention of a number of non-communicable diseases,” concluded Dr Christopher Wild, director International Agency for Research on Cancer.

Dr Wild is responsible for first developing the exposome concept, and is a partner on the project

The measuring kit could become commercially available in the future.

Latest Issue

E&T cover image 1605

"We visit Barcelona, one of the smartest cities in the world, to find out what makes it so special. What does it look like and what is the future?"

E&T jobs

  • High Voltage Engineer

    Premium job

    Essex X-Ray & Medical Equipment
    • Great Dunmow, Essex

    This High Voltage Engineer will provide design leadership for high voltage cable assemblies up to one megavolt.

    • Recruiter: Essex X-Ray & Medical Equipment

    Apply for this job

  • Sales Electronics Engineer

    Premium job

    Precision Microdrives
    • London (Greater)
    • £25,000 - £30,000 starting salary, inclusive of on-target commissions.

    Precision Microdrives (PMD) is a fast growing technology company that designs, produces and trades miniature electro-mechanical mechanisms

    • Recruiter: Precision Microdrives

    Apply for this job

  • Smart Grid Research Engineer

    Premium job

    University of Strathclyde
    • Cumbernauld, Glasgow
    • Grade: 6/7* £26,537 - £37,768*

    Work as part of a growing dynamic team on a wide range of technical projects with particular emphasis on experimental validation and testing

    • Recruiter: University of Strathclyde

    Apply for this job

  • Senior Development Engineer, Electronics

    Premium job

    Helmet Integrated Systems / Gentex Corporation
    • Letchworth Garden City, Hertfordshire
    • Competitive

    We are innovative, robust and fast growing business, whose main focus is to deliver continues improvement to existing products and offer new soluti...

    • Recruiter: Helmet Integrated Systems / Gentex Corporation

    Apply for this job

  • Analogue Electronics Engineer

    Premium job

    Swedish Institute of Space Physics (IRF)
    • Uppsala (Stad) (SE)

    The Swedish Institute of Space Institute (IRF) in Uppsala search for an analogue electronics engineer.

    • Recruiter: Swedish Institute of Space Physics (IRF)

    Apply for this job

  • Principal Robotic Systems Engineer

    Premium job

    National Oceanographic Centre
    • Southampton, Hampshire
    • £45,271 to £49,207 per annum

    Responsible for technical oversight and project management of internally and externally funded innovation centre projects.

    • Recruiter: National Oceanographic Centre

    Apply for this job

  • Electrical Engineer - Water

    Premium job

    Mott MacDonald
    • Peterborough, Cambridgeshire

    Mott MacDonald's highly successful Water and Environment Unit is recruiting an electrical engineer....

    • Recruiter: Mott MacDonald

    Apply for this job

  • Electrical Design Engineer

    Premium job

    Mott MacDonald
    • Cambridge, Cambridgeshire

    Mott MacDonald's highly successful water business continues to win and deliver a fantastic amount of work....

    • Recruiter: Mott MacDonald

    Apply for this job

  • ILS Engineer (Spares Modelling)

    BAE Systems
    • Bristol, England / Glasgow, Scotland / Portsmouth, Hampshire, England
    • Competitive package

    As an ILS Supply and Support Engineer, you will be analysing supplier recommendations related to equipment spares, and carrying out ranging and scaling and modelling, to ensure appropriate equipment availability throughout the life of the ship

    • Recruiter: BAE Systems

    Apply for this job

  • Senior Research Fellow - Power Networks Metrology

    University of Strathclyde
    • Strathclyde
    • £49,230 - £55,389

    The University of Strathclyde seeks an experienced post-doctoral researcher to join their collaborative smart grids research programme.

    • Recruiter: University of Strathclyde

    Apply for this job

More jobs ▶

Subscribe

Choose the way you would like to access the latest news and developments in your field.

Subscribe to E&T