The objectives are to identify current exposures to environmental pollutants during pregnancy and infancy and use the exposome concept to investigate the consequences of such exposures for child health and development.
We will use an ongoing pregnancy cohort with 800 mother-infant pairs in the Bhaktapur district in the Kathmandu valley, Nepal. We will also consolidate and expand collaboration between academic and non-academic institutions in Norway and Nepal to establish sustainable infrastructure to address other research questions related to environmental pollutants, including emerging concerns in the future.
This project is a collaboration between 3 Norwegian institutions (the University of Bergen, the University Hospital of North Norway, and the Innlandet Hospital Trust) and 3 Nepalese Institutions (Tribhuvan University, Siddhi Memorial Foundation, and LEADERS Nepal)
Exposure to environmental pollutants is a global health threat that respects no borders. The impact of these exposures may be detrimental to human health affecting growth, immunity, neurodevelopment, and cardiovascular health. Simultaneous exposure to multiple pollutants is higher in marginalized populations with limited means to monitor, regulate, and deal with the potential health consequences. Generating population-based estimates on the exposures and effects of such exposure is resource-intensive and requires interdisciplinary collaborations. Moreover, inferring causality between exposures to environmental pollutants and health outcomes requires an exposome approach. In an ongoing pregnancy cohort in Nepal where we have collected biological samples from women and their babies over five time points from early pregnancy until 12 months postpartum, we have also collected data on health, growth, maternal distress, and neurodevelopment. In this proposed project, using collected biological material we will analyze several environmental pollutants, nutrients, and other biomarkers reflecting inflammation and altered metabolic pathways and follow the children to an age when adequate measures of cognitive development such as executive functioning and general abilities ("IQ") can be performed. In this effort, we will include local non-governmental organizations to assist with data collection, facilitate communication to the community, government, and international organizations, and safeguard the continuation of the work beyond the project period. The proposed project is the first step in a planned long-term effort to monitor potential harmful environmental exposures and address future research questions related to the exposome and human health outcomes. In other words, our ambition is to fill present research gaps and form a foundation that can address future knowledge gaps.