Exposure Assessment and Epidemiology
The IOM Human Exposure research programme covers both occupational and non-occupational environments, including exposure in the home and wider environment, and different routes of exposures: inhalation, dermal and (inadvertent) ingestion exposure. We are actively developing tools for modelling and measuring exposure and carrying out exposure assessment studies.
Our exposure assessments are carried out for various reasons, such as to support epidemiological studies (e.g. the Inorganic Lead Study and the Tungsten Study), for regulatory risk assessment (e.g. REACH) and health impact assessment. We also investigate exposure to determine the effectiveness of risk management measures, including personal protective equipment (PPE). We investigate chemical and physical agents, including fibres, particulates, nanomaterials, pesticides, chemicals, non-ionising radiation (EMF's) and noise.
IOM's human exposure scientists work on multidisciplinary projects across the organisation and collaborate with scientists in other organisations in the UK, Europe and elsewhere around the world.
We are assisting both regulatory agencies and industry in developing tools for assessing exposure to chemical agents under REACH. For example, the IOM is part of a European collaboration, led by TNO in the Netherlands, to develop an advanced tool for estimating occupational exposure, particularly for the exposure assessments required for REACH (Advanced REACH Tool or ART). Currently, ART only covers inhalation exposure, but we are also developing tools for estimating dermal and inadvertent ingestion exposure. In addition to the development of models, we are also actively assisting industry in preparing Chemical Safety Reports for REACH by carrying out exposure assessment studies and developing exposure scenarios.
The IOM Human Exposure research team is actively working on a number of national and international epidemiological studies. For example, we are responsible for estimating occupational exposure to chemicals for a large international study of brain cancers, funded by the US National Institutes of Health (NIH). We have recently completed a study of the possible cancer risks associated with exposure to tetrafluoroethylene (TFE) in a study led by The Clinica del Lavoro in Milan. We have also played an important role in projects aimed at estimating the cancer burden from occupational exposure in Great Britain and the European Union, by providing current and past exposure estimates for the main carcinogens.
The IOM is recognized worldwide as a leading centre of expertise in the field of risk assessment for nanotechnology. IOM's exposure assessment scientists are involved in several EU funded research programmes in this area. We have coordinated a project funded by the EU, to develop exposure scenarios for nanotechnology (NANEX). Although only a relatively short project, we anticipate that this work will form the basis for other research programmes, specifically focussed on exposure assessment and mitigation.
In recent years, the IOM has become active in estimating exposure to particulates and chemicals in the home environment. We recently conducted a study of nicotine in homes in Northern Ireland, to determine if the ban on smoking in public and workplaces resulted in a change in the exposure levels in the homes of non-smokers living with smokers. We have also undertaken studies, in collaboration with the University of Aberdeen, to assess the impact of the smoking ban on the air quality and the health of bar workers and customers in pubs in Scotland, England and Wales. We are part of the Scottish Centre for Indoor Air, which is focussed on research on the potential health risks from indoor air pollution.