People are exposed to a wide-range of hazardous substances in air, water and food. These include organic chemicals such as pesticides and other industrial chemicals, metals, airborne particles such as fibres and those produced by fossil fuel combustion and biological agents such as fungi and bacteria. These exposures may occur in our workplaces, in our homes or outdoors. Our response to these exposures may depend on our age and general state of health and our genetic constitution.

Assessing the need for control and predicting the likely impact of a certain level of exposure requires knowledge about the nature of the exposure, toxicological mechanisms and outcomes of epidemiological studies of associations between exposures and health impacts. Combining this knowledge is key to assessing the risks of hazardous substances and such work often entails the collaboration of scientists working in different disciplines.

We conduct such assessments and participate in a number of expert groups such as the IGHRC (Interdepartmental Group on Health Risks from Chemicals), World Health Organisation (WHO) and the European Concerted Action on urban air, indoor environment and human exposure.

About our research

We conduct experimental and desk-based studies to understand the sources and levels of human exposure to contaminants, in vitro experimental studies of toxicological mechanisms and desk-based studies assessing toxicological and epidemiological evidence. We combine evidence, often in collaboration with other partners and stakeholders to assess the risks to human health and where appropriate derive estimates of safe levels of exposure. Our work extends to the identification and measurement of biomarkers that may be indicative of exposure to pollution or biological agents and the presence of a disease.

Much of our research directly informs regulators and thereby the development and implementation of measures to control the release of hazardous substances in the environment that are a risk to human health.

Our work is published widely in peer reviewed journals and conferences and our senior staff serve on a number of European and national expert groups that advise on new standards and regulation as well as identify priorities for further research.

Working with us

Cranfield specialises in applied research in all activities, and understanding risks from hazardous substances is an important aspect complementing our environment and health portfolio.

We conduct studies for a range of national and international authorities such as the European Food Safety Organisation, the Drinking Water Inspectorate, Department of Health, the European Concerted Action on urban air, indoor environment and human exposure.

We advise government departments for example by evaluating the latest research on endocrine disrupting chemicals in the environment. We also work with industry to, for example, assist with the evaluation of the toxicology of fibres and metals.

There are a variety of ways to work with Cranfield ranging from use of postgraduate students to conduct blue sky or applied research to well defined consultancy projects that take advantage of our specialist scientists to conduct clearly defined investigations.

We undertake projects for individual businesses and also research associations. The work can be focused on open publication outputs or provision of data within standard non-disclosure agreements.

Clients and partners

Clients and research partners include:

• Central government, e.g. Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), Department of Health (DH), Department for Transport (DfT), Health and Safety Executive (HSE)
• Industrial associations such as Cefic European Chemical Industry Council, ECFIA Representing the High Temperature Insulation Wool Industry
• European government (EU framework research projects), European Food Safety Authority (EFSA)
• UK research bodies
• Water authorities.