Research Themes

Health and Environmental

The protection of key elements of our environment is important for human health. The ability to breathe clean air, to have a wholesome supply of drinking water and to be protected against the harmful effects of things like waste and noise are fundamental to our well-being.

Phthalates, called “plasticizers,” are a group of industrial chemicals have been found to disrupt the endocrine system. Recent studies have highlighted the potential developmental risks associated with in utero exposure to organophosphate pesticides and phthalates. In Palestine, data are not available on maternal or in utero exposures to common environmental pollutants.  We are currently measuring phthalate and organophosphate exposure in a group of pregnant women in the West Bank; to identify primary sources of exposure to these contaminants through the use of exposure-assessment questionnaires; and to determine whether in utero exposure to these contaminants is associated with an increased risk of adverse effects at birth.

Over the past decade, several studies have evidenced the link between exposure to fine particulate matter and adverse health effects. The Middle East Consortium for Aerosol Research Study (MECARS) was conducted between January and December 2007 to provide data for the investigation of the sources and chemical speciation of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) in the region.

Research conducted at the Institute provides the basis for the formulation of environmental policies and programs that span the breadth of environmental research in the Middle East today. The Institute provides scientific research on the effects of contaminants and environmental stressors on human health and ecosystem integrity.

The Institute has mobilized interdisciplinary, collaborative research projects in the areas of Air Quality and Determinants of Health.

 Air Quality

Our goal is for the air in every Palestinian community to be safe and healthy to breathe. In particular, children, the elderly, and people with respiratory ailments should be protected from health risks of breathing polluted air. Reducing air pollution also protects the environment, resulting in many benefits, such as restoring life in damaged ecosystems and reducing health risks to those whose subsistence depends directly on those ecosystems. NHEERL supports EPA's goal by conducting research on the effects of air contaminants, specifically particulate matter and air toxics, on human health and ecosystems.

Research indicates that air pollution in the form of particulate matter, or PM, at concentrations currently allowed by American national standards (the National Ambient Air Quality Standards, or NAAQS) is linked to thousands of excess deaths and widespread health problems. Through its PM health effects research program, the Institute is working to more clearly understand the characteristics of PM that produce adverse health effects, how PM induces these effects, and who is most at risk. 

Determinants of Health

Many phthalates and phenols are hormonally active and are suspected to alter the course of development. The institute is currently investigating prenatal exposures to phthalate and phenol metabolites and their associations with body size measures of the infants at birth. We will be measuring 5 phenol and 10 phthalate urinary metabolites in a cohort of 280 women in the West Bank, Palestine during their third trimester of pregnancy and recorded size of infants at birth.

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