Centre will look into environmental health risks

A research facility to analyse how the health of citizens is affected by the environment in which they live and work has opened at Imperial College London and King’s College London. The Centre for Environment and Health will look at how factors such as traffic fumes and aircraft noise impact human well-being.

The Centre will focus on vulnerable groups, such as children and the elderly, and investigate if environmental factors could be increasing their risk of respiratory problems, heart disease, and cancer. It is funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC) and the Health Protection Agency (HPA), with Imperial and King’s funding staff posts and studentships. If the Centre’s work reveals a specific health risk, the HPA can take account of the findings in its government advisories.

“In terms of data we hold for analysis, the Centre will be fairly unique,” says Dr Linda Beale, research fellow at Imperial’s Division of Epidemiology, Public Health and Primary Care. “It enables us to look into the links between long-term environmental exposure and possible risks.”

The Centre will also conduct epidemiological studies of large population samples, and analyse which pollutants they are exposed to in their daily lives. Its researchers will use technological tools in areas like mapping, modeling, toxicology, genomics, proteomics, and metabonomics, to determine which pollutants people are being exposed to, and how exposure levels change over time. One of the Centre’s primary IT tools will be the Rapid Inquiry Facility (RIF), an application developed by the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and the EC’s EURO-HEIS initiative.

Initial projects planned for the new Centre include studies exploring whether land that is contaminated with chemicals from industrial and domestic pollution have a negative health impact, and of people living near Heathrow Airport, investigating how air and noise pollution affects peoples’ health.
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