The European Research Council (ERC) Awards a Scientific Excellence Funding to Jordi Sunyer

The funded study will focus on the impact of air pollution on children’s brains


Jordi Sunyer, head of the Childhood and Environment Programme at ISGlobal, has been one of the 269 high level scientists selected by the European Research Council (ERC) to receive the prestigious “Advanced Grants”.  

The 2.5 million euros award will be used to study the impact of air pollution on children’s brain development. It will pursue the research developed over the last years by BREATHE, a project that measured the impact of air pollution on cognitive development of 4,000 children between 7 and 9 years of age in 40 schools of Barcelona and that also received funding by the European Research Council in 2010.   

The new project – “Pre-natal exposure to urban AIR pollution and pre- and post-Natal Brain development (AIR-NB)” has a duration of five years and will follow 900 pregnant women and their newborns.  

Jordi Sunyer insists on the importance of studying the impact of pollution during the prenatal period since “this is the moment where brain structures are formed, and intrauterine exposure to environmental pollutants could cause permanent damage, especially in brain myelinization and cognitive development at later ages”.     

The researcher underlines that the “results of the study should create a momentum for the implementation of policies that really protect the health of urban children”.  

Jordi Sunyer is Professor of Preventive Medicine and Public Health at the Pompeu Fabra  University (UPF), has published more than 600 scientific papers, and his work has been cited more than 20,000 times.  

The ERC awards are part of the Research and Innovation Programme of EU’s Horizon 2020. In this occasion, they have selected projects from 27 countries, with UK (50), Germany (40), France (29) and Spain (18, of which 7 in Catalonia) heading the list. Of a total of 2,167 proposals presented for the Advanced Grants, 12% have been selected and funded for a total of 653 million euros.