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  • Madre + bebé
    The Human Early-Life Exposome
    Novel tools for integrating early-life environmental
    exposures and child health across Europe
  • Médicos
    Integrating environmental and health data
    to advance knowledge of the role of environment
    in human health and well-being.
  • Niña beando panza
    Early-life and pregnancy
    Multiple exposures and child health
    Development of innovative, integrative tools & methods
    Strengthening knowledge base for European Policy

“To exploit novel tools and methods in order to characterise early-life exposure to a wide range of environmental hazards, and integrate and link these with data on major child health outcomes thus developing an “Early-Life Exposome” approach”


Due to our ever changing environment and habits, exposure to environmental contaminants is growing increasingly complex. The totality of environmental (non-genetic) exposures from conception until old age is defined as the ‘exposome’. The HELIX ‘early-life exposome’ approach involves combining all environmental hazards that mothers and children are exposed to, and linking this to the health, growth and development of children.

Pregnancy and the early years of life are well recognized to be periods of high susceptibility to environmental damage with lifetime consequences. This makes early life an important starting point for development of the exposome. 

The results of the project will help us to better understand how various types of exposures combine to influence our risk of disease.


  • To measure a range of chemical and physical environmental hazards in food, consumer products, water, air, noise, and the built environment, in pre and postnatal early-life periods;
  • To define multiple exposure patterns and individual exposure variability (temporal, behavioural, toxicokinetic);
  • To quantify uncertainty in exposure estimates;
  • To determine molecular profiles and biological pathways associated with multiple exposures;
  • To obtain exposure-response estimates for multiple exposures and child health;
  • To estimate the burden of childhood disease in Europe due to multiple environmental exposures.
  • To strengthen the knowledge base for European Policy



  • WP1 Novel tool for individual exposures
  • WP2 Novel tools for outdoor exposures
  • WP3 Integrating multiple exposures
  • WP4 Integrating molecular exposure signatures
  • WP5 Linking the Exposome to child health
  • WP6 Environmental burden of childhood disease
  • WP7 Dissemination, policy involvement, training
  • WP8 Management and Ethics


ISGlobal - Centre de Recerca en Epidemiologia Ambiental (ES)
NIPH - Norwegian Institute of Public Health (NO)
UOC - University of Crete (GR)
INSERM - Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Medicale (FR)
BIHR - Bradford Institute of Health Research (UK)
VDU - Vytauto Didziojo Universitetas (LT)
ICL - Imperial College London (UK)
CRG - Centre for Genomic Regulation (ES)
VGGM - Veiligheids- en Gezondheidsregio Gelderland Midden (NL)
HYLO - Hylobates Consulting S.R.L. (IT)
S&C - Sensing & Control Systems S.L. (ES)
INERIS - Institut National de l'environnement industriel et des risques (FR)
CeGen-USC - University of Santiago de Compostela (ES)

Events calendar..

  1. What we do
  2. Project management
  3. Stakeholders

In six existing prospective birth cohort studies in Europe, HELIX will estimate prenatal and postnatal exposure to a broad range of chemical and physical exposures: persistent and non-persistent organic chemicals, metals, pesticides, environmental tobacco smoke, water contaminants, air pollutants, noise, UV radiation, and contact with green spaces. Exposure models will be developed for the full cohorts totalling 32,000 mother-child pairs and biomarkers will be measured in a subset of 1,200. Nested repeat-sampling panel studies (N=150) will collect data on biomarker variability and use smartphone-linked sensors to assess individual mobility, physical activity and personal exposure to air pollutants and UV radiation.

Omics techniques will determine molecular profiles (metabolome, proteome, transcriptome, epigenome) associated with exposures. Statistical methods for multiple and combined exposures will provide exposure-response estimates for fetal and child growth, obesity, neurodevelopment, and respiratory outcomes.

Finally, a health impact assessment exercise will be conducted for combined early-life exposures.

Martine Vrijheid - martine.vrijheid[at]

Project Coordinator

Diana van Gent - diana.vangent[at]

Project Manager and contact

CREAL - Centre de Recerca en Epidemiologia Ambiental

Parc Recerca Biomèdica de Barcelona

Doctor Aiguader, 88 - 08003, Barcelona

Tel +34 932 14 7354
Fax +34 932 14 7301

The HELIX remit is applicable to a highly diverse stakeholder group including academics, environment & public health departments, SMEs, interest groups, policy developer, media and the wider public. Every effort is made to ensure dynamic communication and consultation channels. WP7 specifically dedicates to stakeholder activities. To find out more about individual stakeholders, see the external links page.

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