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The Pregnancy Exposome, understanding in-utero multiple exposures

Research, led by CREAL and UPF

Tuesday, September 8th, 2015

The Pregnancy Exposome, understanding in-utero multiple exposures

Research, led by CREAL, an allied ISGlobal center, and the Pompeu Fabra University (UPF) and published in Environmental Science and Technology, aimed to describe the correlation structure of the exposome during pregnancy, to better understand the relationships between and within families of exposure and to develop analytical tools appropriate to exposome data.

Up to now, the environment and child health field has almost uniquely focused on single exposure-health effect relationships; there is no global view of how various types of exposures co-exist and jointly impact on health. The concept of the “exposome”, that has attracted growing interest in recent years, is defined as the totality of human environmental exposures from conception onwards, complementing the genome. “The global approach of the exposome may advance understanding of disease etiology”, explained Martine Vrijheid, researcher at CREAL and UPF and coordinator of the study.

The correlation analysis presented in this study of multiple environmental exposures among pregnant women in Barcelona, provides a first picture of the structure of the exposome during the crucial in utero period. This information will aid interpretation of reported findings from epidemiological studies in general and inform future analyses of the exposome.

Environmental chemical and physical exposures during fetal or early life have been associated with adverse fetal growth and with developmental neurotoxic, immunotoxic and obesogenic effects in children. Nevertheless, evidence for many of these associations has been classified as limited or inadequate. These are highly complex chronic pathologies and it is hypothesised that improved understanding of how environmental risk factors co-exist and interact during early life, can help elucidate their causes.

Estimates on 89 environmental exposures of current health concern were obtained for 728 women enrolled in the INMA (Infancia y Medio Ambiente) birth cohort, in Sabadell, using biomonitoring, geospatial modeling, remote sensors and questionnaires. “There were strong levels of correlation within families of exposure. Effectively, all the variance in the dataset was explained by 43 principal components”, said Vrijheid.

“Future exposome studies should interpret exposure effects in light of their correlations to other exposures”, explained Oliver James Robinson, first author of the study and researcher at CREAL and at the UPF.


Oliver James Robinson, Xavier Basagana, Lydiane Agier, Montserrat De Castro, Carles Hernandez-Ferrer, Juan R Gonzalez, Joan O. Grimalt, Mark J Nieuwenhuijsen, Jordi Sunyer, Remy Slama, and Martine Vrijheid. The Pregnancy Exposome: multiple environmental exposures in the INMA-Sabadell Birth Cohort. Environ. Sci. Technol. DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.5b01782. Publication Date (Web): 13 Jul 2015

Picture: Pregnant woman (Flickr: iscjorgegarcia)


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