Our continuous interaction with the environment affects our health in both positive and negative ways. Researchers in the Environmental Exposures and Health unit develop and integrate novel tools and methods to investigate the health effects of a wide range of environmental exposures. These include transportation noise, ionizing and non-ionizing radiation, ambient and indoor air pollution, environmental tobacco exposure, pesticides and climate change including heat waves.
From Exposure Assessment to Effective Public Health
The unit conducts epidemiological studies in children, adolescents and adults. Current studies are dealing with health-related quality of life, behaviour, respiratory diseases, childhood tumours, cardiovascular diseases and neurodegenerative diseases. The unit also conducts health risk assessments, including meta-analyses and systematic reviews and contributes to the development of guidelines and regulatory limits in the field of environmental health.
Almost 20% of the Swiss population suffer from a pollen allergy, a dramatic increase from 100 years ago when it was less than 1%. At the same time, the amount of pollen in the air has increased. There is more to pollen allergies than bothersome sneezing: The EPOCHAL study will investigate how different concentrations of pollen from trees, grasses and weeds affect the heart, lungs, brain, sleep and quality of life. We aim to understand these health effects in both pollen-allergic and non-allergic people. Read more and find out how to participate in the EPOCHAL study here.
The PoCHAS project aims to model the ambient exposure to airborne pollen retrospectively using spatiotemporal models. This allows us to investigate how short-term exposure to pollen is related to respiratory and cardiovascular events. We will study mortality and hospitalization. Moreover, in light of increasing allergy prevalence and changing pollen season, we aim to study how the relationship between pollen and health has developed in the last decades, and which subpopulations might be most at risk. Moreover, combined exposure to pollen, air pollution and weather conditions may have synergistic effects, which alter the allergenicity of pollen - a research area which has been hardly explored. Read more about the project
Large scale epidemiological studies investigating long-term health effects of air pollution can typically only consider the residential locations of the participants, thereby ignoring the space-time activity patterns that likely influence total exposure. People are mobile and can be exposed to considerably different levels of air pollution or air pollution mixtures when inside vs. outside, commuting, recreating, or working. Neglecting these mechanisms in exposure assessment may lead to incorrect distributions of exposure over the population which may lead to incorrect exposure health relations in epidemiological studies. The main aim of this study is to assess whether more sophisticated estimates of individual exposure, considering population mobility, decreases the bias in health studies. Further information
This chair in Cape Town university addresses emerging environmental health problems in South Africa. The collaboration consists of four projects: (i) a cohort study on agricultural pesticides effects on the development and respiratory health effects among rural children; (ii) a cohort study on the effects of ambient air pollutants on childhood asthma; (iii) an ecosystem approach on the health risks associated with chemical pollution and bio contamination of water sources and soils; and (iv) a health risk assessment on the impact of climate change on ecosystems, water and chemical usages. Further information about the project
Epidemiological research in the last decade has revealed associations between various cardiometabolic diseases and road, railway and aircraft noise. However, still little is known about mental health effects and most effective interventions to reduce health burden from transportation noise exposure. The TraNQuIL2 study will address several important research questions in relation to acute and long-term health effects from transportation noise to enhance our understanding of effective individual and population-level prevention measures. Read more
Selected PublicationsAll Publications
Castro A et al. Mortality attributable to ambient fine particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide in Switzerland in 2019: use of two-pollutant effect estimates. Environ Res. 2023;231(Pt 1):116029. DOI: 10.1016/j.envres.2023.116029
Eeftens M et al. The association between real-life markers of phone use and cognitive performance, health-related quality of life and sleep. Environ Res. 2023;231(Pt 1):116011. DOI: 10.1016/j.envres.2023.116011
Loizeau N et al. Comparison of ambient radiofrequency electromagnetic field (RF-EMF) levels in outdoor areas and public transport in Switzerland in 2014 and 2021. Environ Res. 2023;237(Pt 1):116921. DOI: 10.1016/j.envres.2023.116921
Ragettli M.S et al. Explorative assessment of the temperature–mortality association to support health-based heat-warning thresholds: a national case-crossover study in Switzerland. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2023;20(6):4958. DOI: 10.3390/ijerph20064958
Wicki B et al. Suicide and transportation noise: a prospective cohort study from Switzerland. Environ Health Perspect. 2023;131(3):37013. DOI: 10.1289/EHP11587