Research – Environmental Epidemiology

Our Research

Projects in the lab for example:

  1. Adverse Pregnancy Outcomes (APO) and ambient exposures: Residential greenness evaluated by the mean Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI, a satellite-based measure), is associated with decreased risk for APO. Air pollution and extreme temperatures, mainly heat events, have been associated with increased risk of APO and only few studies evaluated the potential associations with dust and cold events that are highly relevant due to climate change. Moreover, until today, only a single study has quantified the extent to which the decrease in APO risk that associated with exposure to greenness is mediated by the mitigation of air pollution and extreme temperature exposure. Additionally, the critical windows of vulnerability, i.e., specific gestational weeks during pregnancy when there is increased vulnerability for these ambient exposures, are unknown. Therefore, the goal of this project is to answers these gaps. This is a national study that include all live births in Israel, born between 2000-2014 (N=2,316,440). The ambient exposure levels during pregnancy are evaluated by addresses geocoding and using temporal, high resolution spatial and spatio-temporal measures, based on satellite measure and modeling of the air pollution. Furthermore, associations between the ambient exposure and the odds of APO as well as specific windows of vulnerability are evaluated using advanced statistical and epidemiological tools to evaluate the multiple exposures, the mediation and the timing.
  2. Maternal hormonal levels, stress, and depression as possible mediators of the associations between greenness and APO: Psychophysiological emotion status (stress, anxiety and depression) increases the risk of APO. Therefore, finding strategies to decrease these during pregnancy is essential as a mean to achieve a decrease in APO. Previous studies in the general population demonstrated associations between proximity to green spaces and decreased odds of stress, decreased levels of saliva cortisol (biomarker of short-term stress), hair cortisol levels (biomarker of chronic stress) and depressive symptoms. Therefore, the objectives of this study are to evaluate in pregnant women: (1) the associations between greenness and APO; (2) the associations between greenness and psychophysiological emotional status; (3) the association between greenness and hair cortisol levels (biomarkers of chronic stress) and (4) the mediation of greenness and APO as explained by the psychophysiological emotion status. 
  3. Green Walls: Urban area is significantly warmer than its surrounding rural area due to human activity. This phenomenon is known as Urban Heat Island. High-rise buildings (HRB) in modern cities intensify the Urban Heat Island even more, with an adverse effect on human health, life quality and wellbeing. Greening HRB walls (i.e. covering HRB walls with plants) is increasingly being considered as a nature-based solution for mitigating the Urban Heat Island effect in modern cities by cooling external building temperatures and reducing ambient pollution, as well as the energy consumption. Previous studies demonstrated beneficial health associations of living near green spaces and even beneficial psychological and physiological health effects after a short term visit at urban parks. However, none of the previous studies explore the health effects of green HRB walls. The aim of the project is to explore the health aspects of green HRB walls and their thermal performance.
  4. Cancer risk factors can be categorized by the environmental and social determinates of health (SDH) model into: biological-genetic factors, behavioral risk factors and life style, family and community structure, employment and livelihood, health services; and environmental conditions (built and natural environment). Spatial patterns of cancer incidence that may be explained partly by these factors were not well studied in Israel. The main objective of this study is to evaluate the spatial cancer morbidity distribution and the environmental exposures that may explain this spatial distribution. This study is a registry-based cohort study. The data includes two populations: the 1995 Israeli Central Bureau of statistics (CBS) census (20% of all Israeli population), and the northern population (27.7% of all Israeli population), linked to the Israeli Cancer Registry data (1995-2015) and the national health and social surveys. In addition, ambient exposure data will be used, including particulate matter with a diameter size that is equal to or smaller than 2.5µm (PM2.5) and Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) derived from satellite data and metal levels in the soil (for the northern part of Israel).