Planificació urbana, medi ambient i salut


Novel tools for integrating early-life environmental exposures and child health across Europe

Martine Vrijheid (ISGobal)
Comissió Europea. Seventh Framework Programme

Due to our ever changing environment and habits, exposure to environmental contaminants is growing increasingly complex. The totality of environmental (non-genetic) exposures from conception until old age is defined as the ‘exposome’. The HELIX ‘early-life exposome’ approach involves combining all environmental hazards that mothers and children are exposed to, and linking this to the health, growth and development of children.

Pregnancy and the early years of life are well recognized to be periods of high susceptibility to environmental damage with lifetime consequences. Characterisation of the exposome in early life can provide very effective tools for disease prevention, given that interventions at that time can reshape biological programming and shift the body’s developmental track to the normal function. This makes early life an important starting point for development of the exposome.

The results of the project will help us to better understand how various types of exposures combine to influence our risk of disease.

The project will develop a comprehensive set of high-tech tools, methods and prospective data to measure and integrate the chemical, physical and molecular environment and link this to health of children. Smart phones are used to measure air pollution, UV radiation, physical activity and noise exposure. The latest laboratory techniques is used to measure biological indicators of many chemical exposures including contaminants in food, consumer products and water. In all, HELIX will collect full exposome data from 1,200 mothers and their children, the largest study to do this.

To achieve this, HELIX uses six existing, prospective birth cohort studies in Europe (BiB, EDEN, INMA, KANC, MoBa, Rhea). These cohorts have already collected large amounts of data as part of national and EU-funded projects. Results will be integrated with Europe-wide data to estimate health impacts at the larger European scale.

HELIX is funded by the EU and will receive €8.6 million over the course of five years. The project comprises of thirteen European partners, including two SMEs.


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