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  Environmental Health Risks in European Birth Cohorts
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The project

Overall aim: The aim is to advance our knowledge on specific environment and health causal relationships in pregnancy and birth cohorts by providing support to exploitation of the wealth of data generated by past or ongoing studies funded by the EC and national programmes.

 The specific objectives are to:

 Make inventories of birth cohorts, including

  • health data
  • exposure data
  • biological samples
  • environmental exposure response functions
  • expertise
  • access

Assure quality and interoperability and validate exposure, health and exposure-response data

  • extraction and rigorous evaluation of quality of the data, including developing protocols for to be able to do this
  • evaluation of opportunities
  • validation/testing studies (through case studies)

Obtain data access, build databases, and conduct analysis including

  • setting up protocols for data access, database building and analyses
  • setting up protocols for exposure response analyses
  • conducting specific analyses on exposure and health data to obtain exposure response functions (through case studies)
  • conducting specific meta/pooled analyses to obtain exposure response functions (through case studies)

Make recommendations for data collection in the future to improve environment-health linkages and information

  • for data collection (exposure, health etc)
  • for possible analyses (laboratory and statistical)
  • for exchange of knowledge between (older and newer) cohorts

Disseminate information through

  • project website
  • virtual network
  • workshop(s)
  • easy accessible info (e.g. for policy makers etc)
  • database with exposure response functions
Contribution to the co-ordination of high quality research

There are many pregnancy and birth cohorts in Europe, with sample sizes ranging from a few hundreds to tens of thousands.  A number of them aim to examine environment and health relationships, but the sample sizes are often too small to lead to conclusive results on their own, or have led to inconsistent and sometimes opposite results.  Furthermore the environmental exposure assessment often is the weakest part in the studies as a result of lack of funding and expertise, and could be improved. 

Nevertheless, these cohorts often contain high quality data in many areas such as outcomes and possible confounders and have a team of highly experienced researchers working on them with great expertise and commitment.  A number of the cohorts participate in one or more EC funded studies such as GA2LEN (biological exposures and asthma and allergy), ESCAPE (air pollution and allergy asthma, infections, cognitive function and pregnancy outcomes), INUENDO (POPs and reproductive health), HIWATE (water contaminants and still birth, congenital anomalies, birth weight, preterm delivery), HITEA (indoor exposures and asthma and allergies) and NEWGENERIS (food contaminants and genotoxic risks) and provide a great resource to explore environmental exposure response relationships, but lack at times coordination, expertise and funding to make the best and most efficient use of the available resources.

In addition exposure-response data may be available but not easily accessible, are based on small numbers and should be combined or at least compared with information from other studies.  Furthermore, while a number of the cohorts have been following up children for many years, others have just started with follow up of pregnant women/foetus and provide an excellent resource for future follow up into childhood to examine the existence of vulnerable periods during pregnancy and childhood for a range of environmental pollutants.  The exchange of information and experience between the older and newer cohorts is essential to formulate new hypotheses and use the best methods, tools and study designs to test these hypotheses.

The aims and objectives of the coordination project is to bring together cohorts with environment and health information, share resources, expertise and experience in this area, extract environmental exposure response relationships, where available, and evaluate the information and build common databases to explore environmental exposure response relationships, where possible and needed. Protocols will be developed for the evaluation and could be used for other projects. Furthermore, the project will evaluate potential new uses of the cohorts such as new exposures and health outcomes, and make recommendations.

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