Funding for new research centre to investigate effect of environmental exposures on health

The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) has granted a £1 million development award to the University of Leicester to create a new pioneering national research centre to investigate the effect of environmental exposures on health.

Working with Public Health England (PHE) and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), the new Health Protection Research Unit (HPRU) in Environmental Exposures and Health will focus on research into how exposures in the built environment affect health. The research will measure the impact of factors such as indoor air quality, traffic noise and green spaces on health – ranging from the cognitive development of children to cardiovascular disease in adults. 

Speaking today, Professor Anna Hansell, Director of our Centre for Environmental Health and Sustainability, said: “We are delighted to receive this award. There is a lot we still don’t know about toxic exposures in the environment and their impact on health. Working with both Public Health England and the Health and Safety Executive, our findings will inform policies to help protect both the general public and those exposed at work.” 

The £1 million HPRU award is part of the NIHR announcement of a £58.7 million research investment to protect the public from health threats such as antimicrobial resistance, air pollution and infectious diseases.

It follows a significant investment in environmental health for the University, setting up the Centre for Environmental Health and Sustainability (CEHS) in 2018. The CEHS brings together the world-class environmental and health research of the University, with the vision to improve human health and the health of the environment through cutting edge multidisciplinary research in a changing world.

CEHS research has a focus on environmental causes of chronic respiratory diseases such as asthma, heart disease and cognitive disorders. In addition, it is developing new research on the role of low level chemical exposures in cancer.

The initiative to set up CEHS was also generously supported by local entrepreneur and philanthropist Bob Woods MBE of Mattioli Woods, who received an honorary degree from the University of Leicester earlier this month.