Exposome – the concept to know to act on the health of employees

The concept of exposome is quite recent, introduced in 2005 by researcher Christopher Wild, former director of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). It allows the study of the environment that surrounds individuals and that impacts their health.

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Summary

What is the exposome?
The corporate exposome
What is the current status of the exposome?

What is exposome ?

Health depends on two major components, which are linked to each other: the genome, which is linked to the individual’s genetic character acquired at conception and inherited from parents, and the exposome, which is linked to the environment in which the individual lives or has lived.

The exposome therefore corresponds to all environmental factors, i.e. all non-genetic factors that will impact the health of an individual, from birth to the end of his or her life. It integrates all the harmful environmental, behavioral and occupational exposures throughout life: chemical, physical, biological, psychological and also socio-economic.

The exposome is a multifactorial source of exposure that can produce negative health effects. There are three domains of exposome:

  • The specific external exposome: i.e. behaviors and environment of life and work (stress, diet, hygiene, sports, household routine…)
  • The general external exposome: it includes environmental determinants, i.e. air quality, noise, UV, radon, urbanization, climate, pollution…
  • The internal exposome: it is related to the internal functioning of our body, i.e. the way contaminants are assimilated in our body. To do this, the mobilization of the so-called “omics” disciplines is necessary (epigenomics, transcriptomics, proteomics, metabolomics, adductomics) which aim to analyze the genome. These analyses make it possible, via analyses including biomarkers, to generate large quantities of data allowing conclusions to be drawn concerning diseases or predispositions.

The notion of exposome is more and more widespread because today, chronic diseases (cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, obesity, asthma, cancers…) are constantly increasing and are responsible for 63% of deaths in the world.

Exposome in companies

In terms of exposure, the Ministry of Labor’s SUMER survey (2003) reveals that

More than 2 million employees are exposed to

of carcinogenic risks in the workplace 

 

or more than one employee in ten.

Nearly 10,0000 chemicals are used in the workplace (solvents, detergents, disinfectants, exhaust fumes, pesticides, endocrine disruptors, nanomaterials) and this number is constantly increasing. This exposes a large number of employees to these toxic, allergenic and carcinogenic chemical agents, which are dangerous in the long term, and which can have several routes of access: respiratory, cutaneous or digestive.

The individual reaction to these products can vary greatly from one person to another: genetic components, general state of health, age, sex and pregnancy are factors that greatly influence the action of toxic substances, in addition to individual behaviours (smoking, alcoholism) that aggravate the effects of occupational exposure.

Exposure to pollutants in the workplace does not only concern companies that use substances classified as hazardous; in fact, the working environment may very well be hazardous to health in tertiary sector offices. Indeed, in closed offices, the air quality and the noise level can be quickly degraded and impact the health but also the performances and the productivity of the employees.

Air quality is often worse indoors than outdoors if regular ventilation is not provided; moreover, some activities emit pollutants. For example, photocopiers emit ozone and particles, the use of hydroalcoholic gel and housekeeping increases the concentration of volatile organic compounds and the number of people in the office can quickly increase the concentration of CO2 and noise.

To learn more about the impact of these pollutants on health and performance at work you can read the following article: air pollutants and their impact on health.

What is the status of exposome?

PNSE 4 (National Environmental Health Plan)

At the same time, public policies have integrated the exposome into the action programs carried out in environmental health. In France, the concept was mobilized for the first time in 2015 as part of the 3rd National Environmental Health Plan (PNSE3) to enable “a new approach to environmental health”.

The fourth National Health and Environment Plan (PNSE4), launched in May 2021, makes proposals in this direction: to reduce environmental exposures affecting our health through the establishment of a Green data for Health (GD4H) and to facilitate the structuring and strengthening of environmental health research through a Priority Research Program (PPR).

The reduction of these exposures is a permanent priority, in view of the large and growing number of pathologies induced by the degradation of our environment. This new national environmental health plan aims to act to reduce exposures considered to be priorities (electromagnetic waves, blue light, soil pollution, harmful species, legionellosis, nanomaterials, indoor air pollution, noise).

Helix project

Human Early-Life Exposome (HELIX) is a project involving 13 partner institutions and 6 cohorts of children recruited at birth in Europe. It is one of the first two FP7 projects funded in the FP7 exposome program to explore new tools and methods to characterize exposure during the first years of life to a large number of environmental factors (heavy metals, pesticides, air pollutants, noise…).

This integration of the chemical, physical and molecular environments during the crucial periods of the first years of life will lead to major improvements in the assessment of health risks and health impact, and thus improve prevention strategies for vulnerable populations.

The other ongoing project, EXPOsOMICS, focuses on the effects of air pollution in adults.

ATHLETE project

The ATHLETE (Advancing Tools for Human Early Lifecourse Exposome Research and Translation) project is an EU-funded exposome research project coordinated by ISGlobal. It measures a wide range of environmental exposures (urban, chemical, lifestyle, and social risk factors) at the community and individual level on mental, cardiometabolic, and respiratory health outcomes and biological pathways from preconception through adolescence.

 

Startups

Some startups are taking up the challenge of reducing the impact of the environment on health. This is the case of Meersens and its solution that studies the exposome of populations/individuals in a personalized way and allows to act thanks to advanced technologies in order to reduce health risks, particularly the development of chronic diseases thanks to predictive and preventive actions.

If you want to take action and make the world a better place to live, please contact us, our team of experts can help you!  

HOW CAN MEERSENS HELP YOU?

Meersens is a positive impact environmental health company, mobilized to create a sustainable future, enabling environmental risk mitigation and positively contributing to the health and well-being of stakeholders – by providing customized environmental monitoring and prevention.

Meersens provides 360°, real-time, historical and predictive multi-pollutant monitoring and insight for any location with high accuracy, enabling you to mitigate risks and make better decisions.

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