HCR.20.057 – Disease Prevention by Improving Air Quality

Route: Health care research, sickness prevention and treatment

Cluster question: 089 How can we improve our understanding and treatment of pulmonary diseases?

Exposure to complex mixtures of environmental air pollution is known to cause serious health consequences in humans. Recent human ‘exposome’ studies have demonstrated that in healthy individuals even short-term exposures to air pollution result in molecular responses that link air quality to chronic diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular and respiratory illnesses. The most vulnerable subgroups that experience negative health effect of poor air quality are patients with respiratory diseases, such as children with asthma and elderly suffering from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). Long-term exposure can lead to a decline of lung function in these groups, whereas shorter-term exposure at higher pollution levels has been associated with increased COPD exacerbations and hospital admissions. New technologies have been developed that can purify air from particulate air pollution including particle-bound chemicals, aerosols and endotoxins. The most promising are those based on energy-efficient positive ionization technology, capturing fine particles and ultrafine particles without the use of traditional filtering techniques. Installation of such systems at air pollution hot-spots resulted in an efficiently reduced exposure at these locations. By actively intervening in air quality with air purification technology in various settings, including at home, school or public spaces, the project aims to establish the impact of such interventions on air quality parameters as well as on human exposome markers and physiological health outcomes. Health outcomes will be measured in different age groups, healthy subjects and more susceptible patient groups. The project results will enable to predict health benefits of specific interventions and can be used to guide informed decision making on cost efficient implementation of preventive actions. To facilitate this, a toolbox will be developed that can be used as a decision support system by clinicians and other disease prevention officers to design strategies that improve health and reduce the overall burden of disease.


Air quality, decision support system, exposome, prevention of chronic diseases

Other organisations

CIRO-Horn., Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e), ENS-clean air, TNO


Organisation Maastricht University (UM)
Name Prof. Dr. Theo (Theodorus) de Kok
E-mail t.dekok@maastrichtuniversity.nl
Website https://toxicogenomics-um.nl/staff/Theo-de-Kok