NaCTeM to work on new EU project to reduce the burden of disease caused by working-life exposures


Reducing the burden of disease caused by working-life exposures: EU EPHOR

From January 2020, NaCTeM will be participating in the 5 yr EU funded EPHOR (Exposome Project for Health and Occupational Research) project. Within EPHOR we will lay the groundwork for evidence-based and cost-effective preventive actions to improve working-life health by developing a working-life exposome toolbox. By joining forces in this exceptional consortium of exposure, health and data scientists and technology partners (see map) we will uniquely advance occupational health science in order to reduce the burden of disease.

Why focus on working-life?

Exposures at the workplace can lead to many diseases, such as cancers, cardiovascular and respiratory disease. The total burden of disease caused by occupational exposures is estimated at 5-7%, which is similar to the burden resulting from urban air pollution or obesity. Given the associated societal and economic pressure, ensuring a healthy work environment is an important goal for government and industry. Current risk reduction policies and strategies are informed by existing scientific evidence. This evidence is limited due to challenges related to studying the complex relationship between exposures at the work floor, outside work exposures, and health.

The working-life exposome

The exposome, which takes into account all relevant exposures throughout the life course in relation to disease, is a promising concept for elucidating the complex relationships between environment and disease. We define the working-life exposome as all occupational and related non-occupational exposures (e.g., lifestyle, behaviour). Taking a working-life exposome approach means a great step for occupational health science. It will help address the current limitations and challenges by providing better insights in how working-life exposures are related to disease, for vulnerable groups (female, migrant, insecure job workers) or life stages.


The ultimate aim of EPHOR is to develop knowledge, methods and tools to characterize the working-life exposome. We will obtain better and more complete knowledge on the working life exposome by uniquely combining large-scale pooling of existing data (>40 cohorts; ~ 21 million people), systematically looking at many exposures and diseases. Simultaneously, new data in case studies investigating the effects of working-life exposures on respiratory health in the general population and on several health end-points in night shift workers will be collected. To enable these studies, EPHOR will innovate the field of occupational health sciences by developing methods and tools.

The EPHOR toolbox and impact

The developed tools, methods and knowledge will be made available via the toolbox to scientists, policy makers and occupational health practitioners. This will enable scientists to use and enhance the data, methods and models in exposome research, rapidly increasing the knowledge base on the working-life exposome. Policy makers and occupational health practitioners can use the toolbox for the development of evidence-based and cost-effective preventive policies and actions. Ultimately, EPHOR will contribute to reducing the burden of NCDs on the EU health care systems, improving the health and wellbeing of the EU population, improving the productivity of the EU workforce and increasing the competitiveness of EU industry.

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