girl image

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.

The HPRU in Environmental Exposures and Health brings together our expertise in air quality measurement and modelling, exposure assessment, conducting large-scale epidemiological studies, biomarkers and disease mechanisms and chemical toxicology of fibres and particles to produce the scientific evidence needed to support the effective protection of the population from these environmental hazards.

The mission of this HPRU is to undertake the highest quality research on the health effects associated with exposure to a range of environmental pollutants, including those in the ambient and indoor settings. Our aims are to improve the understanding of the distribution, determinants and pathways linking these exposures to health effects, to provide scientific evidence that will impact directly on public health practice and policy, and to train the next generation of research leaders in environment and health.

The research programme is organised into four complementary themes focusing on furthering understanding of the risk of ambient and indoor air pollutants on health, by examining a range of adverse endpoints in specific population subgroups (e.g. adverse birth outcomes and cognitive function in school children) and in specific locations (indoor, homes and offices, transport micro-environments including the London Underground).

In addition, we will look at emerging exposure issues including e-cigarettes, microplastics, illicit and herbal drug use and brake and tyre wear toxicology.

Theme I - Challenges

1. What are the exposures to toxicants from all environmental sources and consumer products in different populations?

2. Can models be developed to predict exposure?

3. What is the public perception of risk from these toxicants and how are potential risks best communicated?

Theme II - Challenges

1. What are the impacts of air pollution on birth outcomes, cognitive development, mental health and dementia in later life ?

2. What are the impacts of traffic related air pollution on school children’s neurodevelopment and overall health and to what extent does the ULEZ mitigate against any adverse effects ?

3. What, if any, is the impact of air pollution on the London Underground?

Theme III - Challenges

1. What biomarkers emerge following acute exposure to different air pollutants and do they discriminate between different sources?

2. Are non-exhaust PM emissions (brake, tyre and road wear) of toxicological relevance and what are the relative toxicities of exhaust PM and NO2?

3. What are the relative toxicities of e-cigarette components?

Theme IV - Challenges

1. Do microplastics have detrimental human health effects?

2. What are the potential health consequences of waste fires on local populations?

3. What are the health impacts of living near biomass electricity generating installations or being exposed to waste fire emissions?