The Unit of Environmental Medicine currently employs two professors, three associate professors and assistant professor and a number of PhD students, three technicians and one secretary. In addition, we have more guest lecturers and for several years consultant Pál Weihe from Department of Public Health and Occupational Medicine, Tórshavn, Faroe Islands. We have numerous national and international collaborators and funding from both national and international foundations (e.g. Novo Nordisk Fonden, U.S. National Institutes of Health, and EU. Our main interests are health impacts related to exposures to environmental chemicals especially during vulnerable developmental time periods in pregnancy, infancy, childhood and adolescence. We are studying the adverse and beneficial effects of foetal and other early life exposures on obesity and metabolic function, immune function (e.g. infections, allergic disease, vaccination response), reproduction (e.g. anogenital distance, puberty development), growth pattern, brain development (neuropsychological development including ADHD and autistic behaviour). Our research determines the roles of genes and environment including diet on the biology of metabolic function and cardiometabolic-related diseases, gene-environment interactions, toxic mechanisms and risk assessment. In our chemical laboratory, we measure pollutants (see below). We focus on prospective (birth) cohorts;
- Odense Child Cohort
- Faroese Cohorts
- Twin Cohorts
- West African Cohort
- Female green house workers
Odense Child Cohort (https://www.odenseboernekohorte.dk)
2500 pregnant women were enrolled from 2010-12 in early pregnancy and serum and urine samples were collected. Their children are being followed to the age of 18 years with extensive repeatedly collected information from both questionnaires, biological sampling and clinical examinations. We have repeatedly obtained parental-reported language development, ADHD and autism behavior, infections, asthma and allergies. We have assessed height and weight and anogenital distance (a measure of anti-androgen exposure in utero), physical activity, and sex-hormones during mini-puberty at age 3 months of age. In addition, serum antibodies of common vaccines at age 18 months. At age 7 years all children have been examined by a psychologist and a neuropsychological development test have been performed (incl. an IQ test by WISC). We are currently planning follow-up at age 9 to 12 years with sex specific neurodevelopmental tests and puberty development. We have measured several endocrine disrupting chemicals in both maternal and child serum (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, PFAS) and urine (phthalates, pesticides, bisphenols, sunscreens, triclosan, parabens and florid).
Several birth cohorts have been formed in the Faroe Islands, in collaboration with Dr. Pal Weihe, since 1986. The more than 2,000 mother-child dyads have been followed prospectively with clinical examinations up to age 28 years. A new Cohort 6 is under formation in 2020-2021, with the support from the U.S. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. While focus originally was on mercury, subsequent research has included polychlorinated biphenyls, pesticides and, most recently, the perfluorinated alkylate compounds. The Faroese society is of particular epidemiological interest because of the fairly homogenous population and the substantial differences in exposures to environmental chemicals that originate from marine food, including the traditional consumption of pilot whale. Health-related outcomes of major importance include neuropsychological performance, antibody responses to routine vaccinations, growth and development, and metabolic biomarkers.
The GEMINAKAR twin cohort is embedded within the population-based nationwide Danish Twin Registry. Twins aged 18 – 67 years were recruited during 1997 to 2000 to investigate the relative influence of genetic and environmental factors for variation in several quantitative biological traits related to insulin resistance, abdominal obesity and associated cardiovascular risk factors. In total, 756 complete pairs participated in a full day clinical examination including an oral glucose tolerance test, a maximal bicycle test, body composition, ECG, blood pressure measurement, anthropometric measurements and blood sampling for biobanking of DNA, serum and plasma samples. Furthermore, the participants filled in a questionnaire regarding health, lifestyle, and disease, and they completed a comprehensive food frequency questionnaire (FFQ). This cohort was followed up during January 2010 to October 2013 with 1,139 twins participating in a clinical examination performed in our mobile examination unit at their home, at work or at any other place at their conveniences. The examination included ECG, blood pressure measurement, body composition, spirometry, anthropometric measurements as well as blood, saliva and urine sampling for biobanking. The participants completed three different questionnaires on health and lifestyle, sleep and work, and a FFQ. Professor Kirsten Ohm Kyvik and associate professor Christine Dalgård are responsible for the GEMINAKAR cohort.
West African Cohorts
In close collaboration with researchers from the Bandim Health Project (https://www.bandim.org), we examine exposure to persistent environmental chemicals among West African infants and their mothers. We focus on identifying potential immunotoxic effects including infant morbidity and impaired immunological responses to vaccines. The Bandim Health Project runs a Health and Demographic Surveillance System (HDSS) in six districts of Bissau, the Capital of Guinea-Bissau covering around 100.000 people, which provides a unique opportunity to conduct observational studies of environmental exposures in a low-income setting, where morbidity and failure to respond adequately to vaccines can have severe consequences.
Danish Greenhouse Children Cohort
This cohort consists of children whose mothers worked in greenhouse floriculture during early pregnancy. From 1996 to 2000, a total of 314 pregnant women working in greenhouses were recruited, information on working conditions and pesticide use obtained, and their children were examined at 3 months, 6-7 years, and 11-16 years. Findings from this cohort suggest associations between prenatal exposure to modern pesticides and impaired neurobehavioral, metabolic, and reproductive development, with highest susceptibility among children with a common genotype variant.
The analytical chemistry laboratory is highly specialized for analysis of a wide range of environmental toxicants and exposure biomarkers in all kind of human biological samples. Typical matrices include serum, plasma, whole blood, cord blood, urine, placenta, tissues, hair and nails. Our analyses are performed by use of state-of-the-art analytical techniques including LC-MS/MS, GC-MS/MS, LC-HRMS, often combined with modern extraction technique such as off-line or on-line solid-phase extractions. We use atomic absorption for mercury analysis (DMA-80), and spectrophotometric methods for our automated clinical chemistry analyzer (Konelab 20). Our analyses are conducted with the highest level of quality assurance and quality control, and we participate in international quality assessment schemes with most of our analysis.
Routine analysis for the laboratory includes:
- Perfluorinated alkylated substances (PFAS) in serum, whole blood and tissue.
- Polychlorinated compounds (PCBs) in serum
- Pesticide metabolites in urine
- Mercury in hair, urine and whole blood
- Fluoride in urine
- Clinical Chemistry parameters (creatinine, triglycerides, cholesterol etc.)