Environment and Health

Author: | published date:2013-11-30

In view of the great health risks from increasingly severe urban and regional environmental pollutions in China, CESE fully takes the advantage of established disciplines of social, natural, and medical science at Peking University, and greatly promotes researches in the field of environment and health by leading key research projects and collaborating with renowned scientists. The college has successively led (1) one major project “chemical processes in the formation of secondary pollutants in the atmosphere and the health effects” and one key project “behavior, interface process and health effects of fine and ultrafine particles in the atmosphere environment”, which were both funded by the National Natural Science Foundation of China; (2) one "863" key project of the Ministry of Science and Technology " study on the health risk assessment technology of fine particulate in the air" and (3) one public welfare environmental protection project of the Ministry of Environmental Protection "China atmospheric environmental benchmark framework and a pilot study on typical case". In addition, the college also collaborated with internationally renowned scholars and institutions, and organized the projects funded by NIEHS and HEI "atmospheric pollution and physiological mechanism of human health". The college also participated in the collaborative project of 7th Framework Programme (FP7) of European Union and MOST " Reduction strategy of greenhouse gas emissions and the influence on urban environment and public health". These projects allowed us to gain deep understanding about the effects of air pollution and their relevant mechanisms in China. The results from these programs and projects won numerous awards, including the second award for science and technology progress from the Chinese People's Liberation Army and international Marian Smoluchowski Award.

Some selected research achievements are as follows:

a)      “The effects of atmospheric fine particulates on human health”: the college designed the “quasi-control” experiment concerning influences of air pollution on human health in response to opportunities for significant improvements of the air quality in Beijing during 2008 Olympic Games. Through studying the effect and mechanism of atmospheric pollution on human health by monitoring several biomarkers of inflammation, oxidative stress, immunity and vascular damage, we found that oxidative effects among children, the cardiovascular system indicators among the elderly and cardiovascular function effects in healthy people are associated with atmospheric pollutants, especially the chemical composition of PM10/PM2.5. In addition, according to our findings, exposure to PM2.5 during winter heating period has clear influence on the mortality rate of the patients with cardiovascular or respiratory disease. Besides, the ozone and PM were found to have joint effects on human health in our work. The research findings in this area were published in Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), Environmental Health Perspective (EHP), American Journal of Epidemiology (AJE) and other significant medical, epidemiological and environmental health journals.

b)      “Evaluation of health effects based on internal exposure to chemical pollutants”: Based on the measurements of multiple organic pollutants in placenta as an indicator of fetus’s in utero exposure in a case-control study, pollutants such as PAHs were found to be the risk factor with a significant dose-response relationship. The research not only has suggested that the reduction of risk of birth defects can be achieved by reducing organic pollutant exposure, but also uncovered the underlying mechanism of the fetus’s neural tube defects. After publication in PNAS as a research article, the research results were featured widely by public news media such as Nature and Reuters.

c)      “Real-time monitoring of bio-aerosols and influenza viruses”: By integrating efficient air sampling, micro-fluidic sample delivery and silicon nano-wire biosensor technology, we have achieved the online detection of influenza virus in the air. This technology continuously translates airborne biological hazards into viewable electrical signals, which can be further received by remote handheld devices. The significant progress in online detection time and species identification was achieved through this project. Our work has paved new paradigm for real-time detection of biological aerosols. As an application of this technology, we have reduced the flu diagnosis time by 2 orders of magnitude compared to gold standard-qPCR through integrating exhaled breath collection and silicon nano-wire biosensor. Related results were published in journals such as Nano LettersES&T, and featured by ACS Chemical & Engineering News and RSC Chemistry World.