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B4 – Indoor environments & risk assessments – Deadline: 31 August 2009

Background

The potential health risks associated with exposure to indoor air contaminants is increasingly coming under focus by policy makers and researchers. A recent IHCP -ECETOC Workshop on "Exposure and Risk Assessment of Chemical Mixtures in Consumer Products" addressed the major challenges and issues facing researchers and policy makers in the field. The Workshop concluded that whilst these groups have identified indoor air contaminants as representing a widespread and sometimes significant source of exposure, particularly when seen within the context of the extended time periods in which individuals spend their work and leisure time, there is no standard methodology by which the potential health risks might be characterized and compared.

Historically, indoor air exposures have tended to focus on either those substances of 'major concern' (such as carcinogens) or those which have been comparatively straightforward to characterise (such as simple volatile hydrocarbons). However, as more is known about the nature of indoor exposures, in particular their temporality both with respect to time and co-exposures, it is clear that 'simple' exposure assessment approaches are unable to deal with the considerable uncertainties associated with the variability of these parameters. Moreover, all these aspects are further compounded by the fact that exposure varies widely on both an inter- and intra- person/place basis.

The consequence is that major uncertainties currently surround the ability to reliably characterize exposure/risk across the population or, indeed, within specific subgroups of populations. Such uncertainties are further increased when there is a need to better understand the relationships between different pollutants and relationships between pollutants and other relevant factors (such as housing conditions, topography, geography, etc.).

Objectives

The objective of this project would be to develop/recommend a methodology (or methodologies) that can be reliably applied in order that exposures to defined pollutants (and their inter-relationships) can be reliably predicted. It is anticipated that the project would focus on a number of elements:

Ӣ The characterisation and justification of a framework capable of being applied to indoor exposure data/information and covering parameters relevant to their wider interpretation.
Ӣ The development of appropriate databases of quality assured source data.
Ӣ The development of suitable models and statistical methodologies for the characterization and treatment of such data.
Ӣ The application of suitable models and/or statistical methods that serve to either fill gaps or offer refined exposure assessment where uncertainties are considered unacceptable.
Ӣ The ability to display exposure predictions in a number of formats in order that they can be better applied within the context of both research and policy development.

 

Scope

It is anticipated the methodology(ies) will be verified against a representative range of case examples, covering established and emerging indoor pollutants (both of chemical and non-chemical origin). It is expected that the findings will developed into a peer reviewed publication, following a process that involves stakeholder discussion and presentation at a suitable scientific conference.

This project would be expected to complement ongoing European Commission (including IHCP) and other supported activities in the area. The successful research group would liaise with and take account of the findings and outcomes of such other work.

Timing: Start in end 2009, duration up to 24 months

LRI funding: Budget in the order of €400,000

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