NIHR Health Protection Research Units (HPRUs) are research partnerships between universities and Public Health England. The units act as centres of excellence in multidisciplinary health protection research in England.

Through the HPRU in Chemical and Radiation Threats and Hazards we will address today’s most pressing chemical and radiation hazards and threats, advance understanding of how the everyday and exceptional contact we have with chemicals and radiation leads to ill health and deliver timely impact on policy to improve the long-term health of the nation. This HPRU is led by Imperial College London in partnership with Public Health England, King’s College London and the MRC Toxicology Unit, Cambridge.

Our four research themes integrate basic science, molecular and cell biology and large-scale population studies.

Theme 1 - Radiation will improve understanding of the health impact of exposures to natural and man-made sources of radiation, including cancer risks near nuclear installations, from using telecommunications (mobile phones and police radios) and the role of ionising radiation and ultraviolet light in cardiovascular disease.

Theme 2 - Biomarkers will enhance understanding of how chemical and radiation exposures cause disease by studying molecules found in blood or urine (biomarkers) that tell us about contact with specific agents. We will study biomarkers of ionising radiation used in healthcare (e.g. CT scans), common man-made chemicals (e.g.flame retardants, organophosphates, persistent organic pollutants) and chemical exposures near landfill sites.

Theme 3 - Linking in vitro testing to real-world data will deliver new knowledge on how chemicals damage cells (human or the micro-organisms that live within us) to cause disease. We will apply this learning in    two real-world settings: reproductive health near landfill sites and long-term health among workers exposed to radiation.

Theme 4 - Neurotoxins and high toxicity agents will investigate novel highly toxic chemicals, how best to protect people from the effects of these agents (including decontamination after contact) and how to remove them from the environment. This will include study of household mould, chemicals in drinking water and chemical warfare agents.

ERG PI: Dr Ian Mudway