The Environment and Human Health Programme comprises 37 projects that cover a broad field of environmental concerns linked to human health, including inhalation of nanoparticles, long-term exposure to pollution in urban environments, harmful algal toxins, climate change and emerging diseases – perhaps resulting from changing agricultural practices.
Professor Mike Moore, Science Co-ordinator for the programme, said “We know that human activity has an impact on our environment but what is not known, in many cases, is what impact environmental degradation is having on our health. The natural environment contributes to our health in many ways, for example through the quality of air we breathe, the food we eat and the water we drink.”
The programme identifies and prioritises research areas where the natural environment and human health interact, and is building a community of scientists in the UK committed to researching this relationship. Their research should improve our ability to identify and predict emerging health concerns, and will also improve the evidence available to support risk assessments and regulation-setting by the government and other policy makers.
One of the newest emerging concerns is the possible hazard to human health from engineered nanoparticles in our environment. Nanotechnology involves manipulating material and creating devices on a nanometre scale (a nanometre is one thousand-millionth of a metre). The environmental behaviour of engineered nanoparticles is currently unknown and their potential to harm human health is a major concern. Their miniscule size means they can easily be inhaled, ingested or absorbed without knowledge. The particles are currently used in over 200 commercial products including sunblocks, creams, cosmetics and fabric coatings, and are inevitably entering the environment either through manufacturing discharge, accidental spillage or general use.
In one of the projects, researchers will be investigating the possible effects of nanoparticles in the body by introducing two widely used types of engineered nanoparticle to synthetic lung lining liquid and blood plasma (a liquid component of blood). They will test how the synthetic liquids affect the physical properties of the nanoparticles, and the most and least reactive particles will then be tested with primary human lung cells to find out whether the more reactive particles are of danger to our health.
Lead investigator, Dr Eva Valsami-Jones from the Natural History Museum, said, “The ecological cost of many emerging technologies is not yet known. Nanotechnology is already widely used and standard toxicity tests are not necessarily effective as nanoparticles do not behave like their larger counterparts. During these first stage tests we will be looking for any physical changes to the nanoparticles when introduced to liquids such as blood plasma. We will look for changes to their size and structure, and test their ability to dissolve or accumulate. Dissolved particles could be a cause for concern as they may release potentially toxic components.”
The 37 projects all started this year and will be completed in 2008 and 2009. Environment and Human Health is led by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and is a partnership programme supported by the Natural Environment Research Council, the Environment Agency (EA); the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra); the Ministry of Defence (MOD); the Medical Research Council (MRC); the Welcome Trust; the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC); the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC); the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and the Health Protection Agency (HPA)
Marion O'Sullivan | alfa
Preservation of floodplains is flood protection
27.09.2017 | Technische Universität München
Conservationists are sounding the alarm: parrots much more threatened than assumed
15.09.2017 | Justus-Liebig-Universität Gießen
University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event
On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...
Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.
Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....
Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).
When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...
Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.
How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...
Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.
It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...
17.10.2017 | Event News
10.10.2017 | Event News
10.10.2017 | Event News
17.10.2017 | Life Sciences
17.10.2017 | Life Sciences
17.10.2017 | Earth Sciences