Smartphones as environmental sensors

A new project, dubbed Exposomics, intends to monitor personal exposure to pollutants by giving thousands of participants mobile phones equiped with environmental sensors and GPS to log locations. These data will then be supplemented with blood and urine analysis to detect the chemical fingerprints left behind.

The project, led by Imperial College London, UK, and also involving 12 partner institutions is one of two projects that have won a combined €17.3 million (£14 million) grant from the European commission to study the ‘exposome’ – the total environmental components that influence health. The second project, called Human Early-Life Exposome, or HELIX, will focus on children and pregnant women and will also combine the use of smartphones and laboratory tests. As genomic studies have failed to provide a comprehensive link between genetic variations and diseases such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease, it is hoped that the two exposomic projects will help to uncover environmental triggers for illnesses.

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