Our health is impacted by the environment in which we grow up, live, work, enjoy sport, sleep and relax. The combination of exposures over our lifetime constitutes a major risk factor for the development of disease. This has given rise to the concept “exposome”; the totality of exposures people experience during their lifetime and how their bodies respond to them.
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TNO is working together with partners on technology and methods to monitor and interpret these exposures, relate them to health effects and to develop effective methods of prevention.
Many common disorders are closely linked to exposures that range from lifestyle factors to chemical exposures, social interactions and stress. Collectively, these exposures have a huge impact on health in society. Many exposures can potentially be modified to prevent disease. Unfortunately, we often can’t explain why one person will develop a certain disease while another won’t, due to the complex interrelation between exposures and effects. The exposome concept can help bridge this gap in knowledge.
Since people spend a large part of their lives at work, occupational exposure is an important factor. Exposures at work are higher and more complex than outdoors or in home environments, and working is closely related to lifestyle and behaviour (e.g. diet, physical activity, smoking and alcohol consumption) and socio-economic status.
We apply the exposome concept to occupational exposures in order to develop evidence-based and effective preventive measures that enhance workplace health. We do this by developing sensors and sensor-based methods for obtaining personal exposure profiles throughout the working day, providing better insights into who is exposed, where a person is during higher exposures and what the reasons for this exposure are.
The contribution of occupational exposures to the total burden of disease is similar in magnitude to air pollution or obesity, for example. We want to know:
That is why we develop models and biomarkers to characterise the internal exposome (doorlink pagina). In addition, we further develop and apply exposome methods, e.g. sensors, passive sampling, data mining, and (non-invasive) biomonitoring methods in large groups of workers, in the EU EPHOR project that we coordinate.
Thanks to our multidisciplinary nature and our in-house experts ranging from sensor developers to exposure scientists and from systems biologists to behavioural scientists, we are able to unravel the exposome.
Together with partners from industry and research, we work in partnerships that are essential for taking this field further, towards applications. We have a strategic partnership with the NIOSH in the US and HSE in the UK and with the Utrecht Exposome Hub on exposome research. If you would like to know more about our exposome activities or collaborate with us, please get in touch.