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French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety

ANSES Scientific Conferences event: a day devoted to the health risks of air and water pollution

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News of 16/04/2013

More than 250 people gathered at Maisons-Alfort today to learn about research projects on the health risks of air and water pollution, carried out as part of the National Plan for Research on Environmental and Occupational Health, which is overseen by ANSES. The presentations and the ensuing discussions brought the participants up to date with the latest scientific progress in these areas and provided answers to some of the many questions on how to reduce exposure and risks to health. 



Among its missions, ANSES plans and supports research. As part of this, the Agency runs the National Plan for Research on Environmental and Occupational Health (PNR EST), a key tool in the development of knowledge to support public policy and ANSES’s health risk assessment work. In this context, a call for research projects (APR) is issued every year, backed by funds entrusted to ANSES by the Ministries of the Environment and Labour, in addition to money raised by the tax on radio-transmitters and financing from its current partners, including the French Agency for Environment and Energy Management (ADEME), the Multi-Organisation Thematic Institute for Cancer (ITMO Cancer) – as part of the 2009-2013 Cancer Plan, the French National Agency for Water and Aquatic Environments (ONEMA) – under the 2018 Ecophyto Plan run by the Ministry of Agriculture, as part of the 2017 Ecoantibio Plan.

In order to promote these studies, ANSES organises two sessions a year as part of its series of Scientific Conferences devoted to project feedback on a given theme, during which the research teams can present their work to the public. 

Today’s conference was devoted to the health risks of air and water pollution. Two themes were highlighted:

  • atmospheric pollution and epidemiological studies
  • contamination of the air and water environments and human exposure

In developed countries, inflammatory disorders of the respiratory tract have increased considerably over the last three decades. In France, children are especially vulnerable, with asthma now affecting more than 10% of them, and a constant increase is expected up to 2020.

Onset of asthma and other respiratory pathologies is determined by mechanisms of genetic predisposition as well as such environmental factors as exposure to pollution in outdoor air, to allergens, to chemical pollutants in indoor air, etc. In this context, improved knowledge of the mechanisms and causal links will be of great use in choosing the most appropriate policies for the prevention or reduction of health risks. 

These themes are a key focus of the Agency’s work, with air quality a priority for 2013. Expert appraisals on risks related to airborne particles, or concerning allergens (especially pollens), will be launched or continued throughout the year. Work is also ongoing on air quality in underground rail transport areas, to assess the health risk to workers.


A one-day scientific review event

More than 250 people gathered for the ANSES Scientific Conferences event in Maisons-Alfort whose topic was air and water contamination and its impact on human health. The participants included physicians, epidemiologists, biologists, toxicologists, and bacteriologists, together with representatives of public institutions and risk assessment agencies, and other stakeholders.

The morning was given over to presentations of research into the epidemiology of respiratory diseases due to human exposure to various pollutants. One study on pregnant women, carried out by teams from Inserm, the University of Harvard, the Institut Helmholtz in Munich, the Atmo in Poitou-Charentes, and Air Lorraine, investigated the impact of exposure to atmospheric pollution on cardiovascular health, transmission between mother and foetus, and foetal growth.

The morning ended with a talk by Francine Kauffmann, Director of Research at Inserm. Dr. Kauffmann gave a roundup of current knowledge of respiratory diseases and then went on to list the questions currently facing science regarding the causes of these conditions, whether involving environmental determinants or genetics. 

The afternoon saw various presentations that broadened the debate on human exposure to pollutants via other matrices, and included some exploratory research work. 

The Agency first presented several examples of the work that it is itself pursuing to support risk assessment, such as work on the selection of the chemical pollutants to be taken into account in the health risk assessments carried out for the impact studies it performed in 2012, or work on contaminants found in fertilizers, so as to improve their assessment.

The programme then turned to research into biological or chemical pollutants in waste-water and other complex matrices. The participants followed a presentation of work carried out jointly by the University of Bordeaux and INERIS, on the impact of photodegradation on drug residues in effluent from sewage plants, and their potential toxicity.

Throughout the day, time was set aside between each presentation for discussion and for examining the poster presentations, facilitating contact between the participants and the different disciplines they represented.

The event provided an opportunity to catch up with scientific progress in these areas, and supplied answers to some of the many questions involved in reducing exposure and health risks related to air and water pollution in France.