The physical and social environment in which we live - and how we move around our activity space - plays an important role in our health and well-being. We explore the integral connection between health and place with an emphasis on the built environment, including both areas with pollution (e.g. air pollution, noise, radon, pesticides) and those that can be health promoting (e.g. green spaces and natural environments). Our epidemiological analyses are underpinned state-of-the-art spatio-temporal environmental exposure modelling techniques, often within a Geographic Information System (GIS) environment, exploiting Earth Observation and ancillary data.
Big Data Challenges in Exposure Science
As health data are subject to data protection, innovation in exposure assignment and processing of big data are crucial. One of our key research aims is to solve issues related to these challenges, from the application of novel statistical techniques (e.g. machine learning) to the development of harmonized environmental exposure databases for large populations to support vital collaborative research on important environmental health issues faced by today’s society.
The main aim of the EXPANSE project is to address one of the most pertinent questions for urban planners, policy makers, and inhabitants in Europe: “How to maximize one’s health in a modern urban environment?” EXPANSE will translate its insights and innovations into research and dissemination tools that will be openly accessible via the EXPANSE toolbox. By applying innovative ethics-by-design throughout the project, the social and ethical acceptability of these tools will be safeguarded. Tool discoverability and accessibility will be stimulated through the EXPANSE hub in which citizens, public sector policy makers, and private sector companies collectively participate. Further information
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 large study will substantially contribute to a better understanding of the risk factors for skin cancer. After Australia and New Zealand, Switzerland is ranking third worldwide for malignant melanoma incidence. In addition to UV radiation, recent studies found indications that radon may increase the risk for skin cancer. Radon levels in Switzerland are higher than in most other countries. To know if there is a link between household radon exposure and skin cancer is thus of high public health relevance.
ELAPSE (Effects of Low-Level Air Pollution: A Study in Europe) is a Europe-wide collaboration in a research project on Mortality and morbidity effects of long-term exposure to low-level PM2.5, Black Carbon, NO2 and O3: an analysis of European cohorts. The Project is funded by Health Effects Institute and runs from mid-2016 to mid-2019. ELAPSE addresses the issue of health effects at low air pollution levels by performing targeted analyses of all-cause and cause-specific mortality and morbidity endpoints within selected cohorts of the ESCAPE study with detailed individual data (~380,000 subjects) and in seven very large European administrative cohorts (> 35 million subjects). Further information
The ICARUS project aimed to develop innovative tools for urban impact assessment in support of air quality and climate change governance in the EU. This involved designing and implementing win-win strategies to improve the air quality and reduce the carbon footprint in European cities using an integrated approach for air pollution monitoring and assessment. The ICARUS methodology was applied to evaluate health impacts in nine EU cities of variable size, socio-economic condition and history (Basel-Stadt was a case-study city). ICARUS also aimed to develop a visionary model seeking to minimize environmental and health impacts, highlighting transition pathways to demonstrate how current cities could be transformed towards cities with close to zero or negative carbon footprint, and maximal well-being within the next 50 years.
Latest PublicationsAll Publications
Valipour Shokouhi B, de Hoogh K, Gehrig R, Eeftens M. Estimation of historical daily airborne pollen concentrations across Switzerland using a spatio temporal random forest model. Sci Total Environ. 2024;906:167286. DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2023.167286
Boogaard H et al. Long-term exposure to traffic-related air pollution and non-accidental mortality: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Environ Int. 2023;176:107916. DOI: 10.1016/j.envint.2023.107916
Bouma F et al. Long-term exposure to ultrafine particles and natural and cause-specific mortality. Environ Int. 2023;175:107960. DOI: 10.1016/j.envint.2023.107960
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
Castro A et al. Methodological manual for air pollution health risk assessments in Switzerland: deliverable 5 of the project QHIAS (Quantification of health impact of air pollution in Switzerland); Version 1.0. Bern, Switzerland: Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN), 2023. DOI: 10.5451/unibas-ep96059