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International Workshop on Environmental Factors, Genetics and Public Health

 

Against the backdrop of Lake Chiemsee, researchers of Helmholtz Zentrum München and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) came together in March 2015. Scientists from both institutions are seeking to elucidate the spectrum of health effects caused by airborne pollutants. Helmholtz Zentrum München and the Environmental Protection Agency maintain close scientific relations. In 1998 a formal cooperation agreement was concluded. Since then, the project partners have been meeting at regular intervals to discuss their work, alternately in Bavaria and North Carolina, the seat of the National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Cooperating for Healthy Living Conditions on Both Sides of the Atlantic

The working meetings of Helmholtz Zentrum München and the U.S. EPA bring together physicians, toxicologists, statisticians and epidemiologists of both institutions for an informal exchange of ideas. Results are discussed, and new research approaches for unresolved issues are developed. In Prien in Upper Bavaria, scientists from both institutions elucidate acute and chronic influences of the environment on the health of the population.
Common problems are brought up in discussions and analyzed further. The EPA and Helmholtz Zentrum München are international leaders in the field of airborne pollution research.
In joint publications researchers from Helmholtz Zentrum München and the U.S. EPA have pointed out the associations between particulate matter pollution and inflammatory diseases of the respiratory system and the cardiovascular system.
  • David Diaz- Sanchez, director of the Clinical Research Branch at the U.S. EPA
  • Lucas M. Neas, health scientist at U.S. EPA
  • Robert B. Devlin, health scientist at U.S. EPA (bottom, from left)
The focus of the  workshop is on how air pollutants interact with genetic, epigenetic and social factors. The participants from the American side were: David Diaz- Sanchez, director of the Clinical Research Branch at the U.S. EPA, Lucas M. Neas and Robert B. Devlin (bottom, from left).  

Hillel Koren

 

“The joint workshops of Helmholtz Zentrum München and the U.S. EPA date back to a cooperation agreement from 1998. Groups from the two institutions had worked together on an informal level for many years previously. The cooperation agreement strengthened the existing synergies. Our first bilateral workshop took place in 1999 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and the workshop in Prien is meanwhile the seventh meeting of its kind.

The cooperation between the EPA and Helmholtz Zentrum München is a success story. Important publications would never have existed without this cooperation. The joint research has helped standards for the reduction of particulate pollution to be established and implemented in both countries. The current workshop is more than a continuation of previous work. New experimental methods, especially on the molecular level, have become available, and in many fields new approaches have been developed. An especially important issue has taken center stage in our meeting in Prien on Public Health: demands of society and social aspects, so that our results benefit the population.”

Hillel Koren, chairman of the Scientific Advisory Board of Helmholtz Zentrum München, is a co-founder of the cooperation with the American Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Prior to his retirement, Koren was director of the EPA Human Studies Division and research professor at the der University of North Carolina. He works as a consultant and reviewer for European and U.S. science organizations.

 

Annette Peters

“The cooperation between Helmholtz Zentrum München and the American Environmental Protection Agency has developed over a whole generation of researchers. Our centers pool their complementary strengths. The EPA has the world’s best resources for controlled exposure studies on humans and an immense knowledge on the biological mechanisms of airborne pollutants. We in turn have world-class cohort studies and the expertise to evaluate epidemiological studies. Because our competencies complement each other perfectly, we can combine all our strengths and gain new insights. The meetings between Helmholtz Zentrum München and the American Environmental Protection Agency have been inspired by mutual progress. They are the framework in which we are focusing our potential and advancing research.

The next meeting of Helmholtz Zentrum München and the U.S. EPA is planned for the 20th anniversary of the cooperation agreement. Then we will convene in the U.S. We look forward to finding out what progress has been made with the new research approaches in systems medicine and in public health, where the aim is to develop action plans to improve the health of the population on both sides of the Atlantic.“

Annette Peters is director of the Institute of Epidemiology II at Helmholtz Zentrum München and head of the KORA research platform with long-term population studies. Peters was involved as scientific consultant in the assessment of the health effect of airborne pollutants by the World Health Organization WHO and the European Union. Since 2015 she has been a member of the Scientific Board of the National Cohort, Germany’s largest health study.

For Healthy Living Conditions on Both Sides of the Atlantic

Since the beginning of the cooperation in 1998, insights have been gained into the mechanisms of action and the effects of particulate matter, which were incorporated into the recommendations of the World Health Organization, which have influenced American and European environmental legislation and have led to more stringent limit values and preventive measures, such as the introduction of environmental zones in large cities.