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Topics that the department works with are effects of environmental toxins, diet and intestinal flora on health.
The department examines environmental toxins people are exposed to, their origin, and what effects the exposure has on health. We are exposed to environmental toxins primarily through food, which is also the most important source of nutrients, vitamins, minerals and other biologically active substances. The department therefore studies both positive and negative substances in food and how they affect health.
Chemical analyses of human biological material to map how the population is exposed to environmental toxins is a central part of the department's work. We also map the composition of the intestinal flora in children, what factors are important for the intestinal flora, and the connection with health. The department has major tasks in national and international risk assessment work.
Our research aims to provide better and more holistic insight into the connections between exposure to environmental toxins, intestinal flora and diet, and consequences for health. The department has a high level of expertise in exposure research, toxicology, epidemiology, nutrition and analytical chemistry.
The department specializes in the content of nutrient and foreign substances in food as well as substances in water and the indoor environment. In some projects, different sources of environmental pollution are mapped by comparing calculations from food, indoor air and dust with what can be measured in the body. This knowledge provides a better basis for risk assessment of these substances.
We use human material from various biobanks to study how environmental toxins can affect health. Current environmental pollutants we study are various flame retardants, polychlorinated biphenyl (PCBs), per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances (PFASs), heavy metals and other elements, phthalate, bisphenol, parabens and pesticides. We are also working on investigating what natural toxins and process-inducing substances have to say for health.
Many of the research projects include the development of fast, sensitive and quality-assured analysis methods for determining substances in human material. The department relies on advanced instruments such as GC-LRMS, GC-HRMS, LC-MS / MS and UPLC-QTof, which generate analysis data for national and international biomonitoring studies.
The department plays an important role in research in the Norwegian father, mother and child study (MoBa), which has collected data from mothers, fathers and children from before the children were born, both biological samples and information from questionnaires. The department has developed and validated a comprehensive diet questionnaire for pregnant women, which forms the basis for much of the research. The department performs environmental toxin analyzes of the biological material and is involved in many national and international research projects that investigate what diet has to say in pregnancy and early life years for physical and mental health outcomes in mother and child.
The Norwegian Environmental Biobank (‘Miljøbiobanken’) is an important priority. Here, blood and urine samples have been collected from thousands of people. The material is used for research and to monitor the exposure to environmentally hazardous substances. The Norwegian Environmental Biobank may help to detect new environmental toxins at an early stage, or to investigate whether measures that are implemented to reduce pollution have an effect on health.
The department provides professional advice to the health, food and environmental authorities and has employees who are involved in the Scientific Committee for Food Safety (‘VKM’) and the European Food Safety Authority EFSA. The employees at the department give advice on e.g. environmental toxins, natural toxins and pesticide residues in food. We also provide advice in the area of safe food, dietary supplements and enrichment of food, and participate in work with holistic risk assessments of harmful chemicals.
The department has extensive research activity, both with national and international funding, large scientific publications, and is responsible for developing and updating factual information on NIPH’s website.