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EXHAUSTION climate change project: Helmholtz Zentrum Munich funding

EXHAUSTION, the international climate change project involving 13 European institutions, in addition to Helmholtz Zentrum Munich, will receive funding totaling €6.6 million over the next four years. Of this amount, € 700,000 will go to Helmholtz Zentrum München. The backing is provided by the EU's Horizon 2020 Framework Program*. The management of the EXHAUSTION project is under the auspices of the Center for International Climate Research, or CICERO**, in Oslo, Norway.

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Extreme heat and wildland fires are identified as key climate risks in Europe. The two risks are interlinked, as the risk of wildland fires increases during periods of extreme heat and decreasing precipitation. Extreme heat increases the death and disease rates for cardiopulmonary disease (CPD). Wildland fires cause intense air pollution in the form of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and ozone (O3). These are the two major air pollutants threatening human health in Europe, and their main health effects are related to CPD. Episodes of extreme temperatures and extreme levels of PM2.5 and O3 are likely to occur simultaneously and could occur more often, last longer, and become more intense with global warming.

The international EXHAUSTION project, to which a team from the Helmholtz Zentrum Munich's Institute of Epidemiology is contributing, aims to investigate the interplay between extreme heat, air pollution and cardiopulmonary death and disease rates. Based on the most updated and advanced climate models, the project partners will develop extreme heat and atmospheric pollution projections. In addition, researchers have access to unique retrospective health registries on CPD mortality and morbidity across Europe, while continuing to draw on the time-series of more than 15 European countries in the Multi-Country Multi-City Collaborative Research Network 

"These data enable us to gain new insights into the dose-response relationship between extreme heat, atmospheric pollution, and cardiopulmonary diseases," explains Dr. Alexandra Schneider, Head of the Environmental Risks Working Group of Helmholtz Zentrum Munich's Institute of Epidemiology. "By combining the exposure projections and the dose-response relationships, EXHAUSTION quantifies the future exacerbation of CPD in Europe and attributes the change in CPD mortality to a changing climate," added Schneider. The aim is to quantify changes in disease and mortality rates caused by extreme heat and atmospheric pollution, taking specific climatic scenarios into account.

The project will also identify opportunities for adapting to changing climatic conditions, calculate the costs to society and develop effective strategies to minimize adverse impacts.

"With our research, we aim to raise awareness of changing climatic conditions and the consequences for public health, while at the same time pointing out ways and means of dealing with these issues. Consequently, on project completion, one of our main concerns will be to inform the European public, as well as both key decision- and policy-makers across Europe , about the findings the EXHAUSTION project has brought to light", as Dr Kristin Aunan, CICERO scientist and head of the project, commented on the future communication of the scientific results.

Further information

*Horizon 2020 is the European Union's framework programme for research and innovation. As a funding programme, it aims to build an EU-wide knowledge and innovation-based society and a competitive economy while contributing to sustainable development. In order to have a targeted impact on society, the programme sets priorities and contains a comprehensive catalogue of measures:

**The Center for International Climate Research (CICERO) is a leading partner in the Exhaustion project and manages the interdisciplinary working group consisting of climate researchers, health experts and physicians.

As German Research Center for Environmental Health, Helmholtz Zentrum München pursues the goal of developing personalized medical approaches for the prevention and therapy of major common diseases such as diabetes mellitus, allergies and lung diseases. To achieve this, it investigates the interaction of genetics, environmental factors and lifestyle. The Helmholtz Zentrum München has about 2,500 staff members and is headquartered in Neuherberg in the north of Munich. Helmholtz Zentrum München is a member of the Helmholtz Association, a community of 19 scientific-technical and medical-biological research centers with a total of about 37,000 staff members. 

The Institute of Epidemiology (EPI) assesses genetic, environmental and lifestyle risk factors which jointly determine the occurrence of major chronic diseases. The focus is on the development and progression of metabolic, respiratory and allergic diseases, as well as heart diseases and mental health. The goal is to understand the molecular underpinning of disease better and to translate this knowledge into personalized approaches of prevention as well as polices to improve health. Research builds on the unique resources of the KORA cohort, the KORA myocardial infarction registry, and the KORA aerosol measurement station. Aging-related phenotypes have been added to the KORA research portfolio within the frame of the Research Consortium KORA-Age. Moreover, the institute makes use of the birth cohorts GINI and LISA. It plays a leading role in the planning and setting up of the German National Cohort and builds the NAKO biorepository.