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Environmental Health Engineering

Research focus

Our primary research involvement has been in the area of air pollution and health, where we have designed and conducted large scale field studies concerning the household, ambient and occupational environment across multiple states in India, including monitoring and evaluation of intervention efforts. A brief description of these efforts is provided below

Focal Area: Ambient and household air Pollution 

Description: Populations in rapidly developing countries face an enormous health burden from air pollution on account of high and often extreme exposures to emissions from a variety of sources in the household, ambient and occupational environments. Over the last two decades, we have developed several approaches that specifically address the heterogeneity and complexity of exposure profiles experienced by both rural and urban populations. These methods have allowed a deeper understanding for the need to address several micro-environmental contributions to short and long-term exposures within different population sub-groups. We have led large scale exposure measurement exercises across multiple states in India as well as assisted in scoping exposure assessment methods in many Asian countries. Collectively these studies have generated an expansive base of exposure information informing both regional and global efforts to estimate health effects of air pollution and disease burdens. They have also informed intervention efforts related to household air pollution from cookfuels in rural communities. 

Focal Area: Lead and neuro-behavioural impacts in children in India 

Despite the phase out leaded gasoline, exposures to lead continue to pose health risks for children in India. We have been involved in a long-term collaboration with investigators at Harvard University to profile the exposures in children as well as assess associated neuro-behavioural impacts and the role of gene-polymorphisms in effect modification

Focal Area: Occupational health risk management toolkits in India 

Workforces in India experience exposures to range of physical and chemical hazards but lack the infra-structure for implementing even basic occupational hygiene programs. We have been involved in the development and application of occupational risk management or control banding (CB) toolkits in industrial units located in the Southern India. CB delivers the preventive methods of the industrial hygiene to these settings without the need to invest resources for expensive exposure monitoring. These methods have resulted in development of strategies to integrate sound chemicals management issues into sustainable development plans of individual companies. Specific methods to enhance chemical safety were introduced in in several sectors including small and medium enterprises (SMEs). Capacities to conduct eco-toxicological monitoring were also established in a network of local institutions. Similar efforts are underway to develop toolkits for physical hazards including heat stress and ergonomic hazards.

Focal Area: Global and national technical assessments on air quality and health 

EHE-SRU faculty members have contributed to several national and international technical assessments concerned with air quality including, the Global Burden of Disease and Comparative Risk Assessments (GBD 2000, GBD 2010,GBD 2013), The IARC Monographs for household(2006) and ambient air pollution(2013), The Global Energy Assessment (2009), the World Health Organisation Air Quality Guidelines for ambient (2006) and household air pollution (2014) and the Indian National Air Quality Index(2014). We currently serve as a member of the National Steering Committee on Air Pollution Related Issues for Health Effects for the Ministry of Health Govt. of India for translation of research recommendations to air quality actions

Research Projects:

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Infrastructure:
A. Field/Laboratory Infra-structure 
    Air Sampling Equipment 
EHE-SRU is equipped with a state of the art exposure assessment laboratory with an extensive range of sampling equipment for conducting large scale field measurements for household and ambient air pollution. This includes multiple complements of (i) low volume gravimetric (SKC, Casella) samplers with (BGI) cyclones; Direct read out instruments UCB PATs monitors, TSI Dust Track and SidePack Monitors), Cascade (Anderson) impactors; and a few units of Micro PEMs; for micro-environmental/ personal sampling of particulate matter (ii) hi-volume dichotomous and speciation samplers for ambient measurements of particulate matter and gases (iii) direct read out instruments for CO and VOC measurements (iv) calibration equipment including primary flow calibrators, rotameters, span gas etc ((v) storage facilities for filters, sorbent tubes, including cabinets/ refrigerators and (vi) software/hardware support for sampling/analytical instrumentation. 

Analytical Facilities 
A controlled environmental room and microbalance facility is available a EHE-SRU for filter weighing. A ball mill grinder and rotary evaporator for coating filters with XAD-resins and facilities for extraction of metals, PAHs, VOCs from filters, sorbent tubes including desiccators, sonicators, ovens are also available and operational at EHE-SRU. In addition investigators have access to the following instrumentation in collaborator laboratories 
(i)   GC-MS (Agilent 6890GC/HP5973) equipped with an automated thermal desorption unit and
       columns for analysis of VOCs 
(ii)  GC-MS/MS (Thermoscientific) for analysis of PAHs 
(iii)  ICP-/MS (Agilent 7500) for analysis of heavy metals 
(iv)  HPLC and UV Spectrophotometers and Elisa Plate Readers( ) for analysis of biomarkers
(v)   PCR (9700, Applied Biosystems) with 96- and 384-well blocks for analysis of micro RNA 

Bio-repository 
Two deep freezers (-80 degrees C) with continuous power back up and temperature monitoring facilities together with centrifuges, vortex machines, sonicators are available to process and store bio-samples. Multiple refrigerators are also available to store samples that do not deep freezer storage.

B. Clinical Infra-structure
EHE-SRU has available two PFT machines, a stadiometer, two SECA mats, two sphygmanometers, a portable 12 lead ECG machine for clinical/health assessments in the field. Investigators have access to a full-fledged clinical laboratory with capacities for analyses of a wide battery of clinical biochemical and microbiological analyses. The laboratory also provides assistance with deputing phlebotomists for sample collection in field assessments. An elaborate hospital infra-structure providing tertiary care services is available on campus that can be utilized to support field clinical assessments at the Departments of General Medicine, Chest Medicine, Cardiology, Pediatrics and Gynaecology & Obstetrics. Senior physicians at these departments are frequently involved in training, overseeing field clinical assessments as well as support clinical referral services as needed. 

C. Office Infra-structure: 
EHE-SRU has ~12000sq.ft of administrative office space that is shared by faculty and research staff. Each individual room (faculty)/ workstation (research staff) is equipped with a PC with cable internet connections and is connected to a departmental server. Other common office facilities include storage cupboards, filing cabinets, printers, scanners, Xerox machines, phones and workspaces for group discussion. In addition, a number of centralized conference and training halls as well as telemedicine/video conferencing facilities are available on campus and can be utilized as needed. The office is secured with restricted biometric access for staff and faculty at all times.

Collaborating Institutions:
A. Recent/Current Collaborations:
International Collaborations:
1. World Health Organization
2. Clarkson University, USA
3. Columbia University, USA
4. London School of Tropical Medicine, UK
5. Tufts University, USA
6. University of Minnesota, USA
7. Utah State University, USA
8. University of Dundee, Scotland
9. Washington University, USA
Indian Collaborations:
1. Indian Council for Medical Research
2. Calcutta University, Kolkata
3. Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, Ministry of Earth Sciences, Government of India
4. KEMHRC, Pune
5. National Institute of Epidemiology, ICMR, New Delhi, Government of India
6. National Institute of Nutrition, Hyderabad, India
7. Public Health Foundation of India
8. Saint Gobain Glass India Limited, Sriperumbudur, Tamil Nadu

Research Workshops conducted:
1. International Symposium on Climate Change, Heat Stress &Health, Apr 2015
2. Capacity building Workshop in ICMR CAR project, Mar 2015
3. Workshop on exposure assessment methodologies for Air pollution related epidemiological studies – in ICMR –CAR Project , Mar 2015
4. CME on “ Research Approaches to the Etiological Studies in Oro facial Clefts” , May 2014
5. CME on ”Recent advances in Nutrition & Air Pollution Epidemiology Application in Oro Facial Cleft”, ” in collaboration with Dept of Plastic Surgery , Feb 2014
6. Certificate Course on ”Climate Change & Health” ” in collaboration with UMEA University,  Nov 2013