Czechs clinch EU funding to study pollution-health link
The European Union has granted over EUR 24 million in funding to researchers in the Czech Republic to investigate the link between the state of the environment and of the population's health. Masaryk University (MU), the Veterinary Research Institute and the Institute of Scientific Instruments will use the funding to construct a new research centre and purchase equipment. The doors of the new centre are expected to open in 2012.
Various studies have shown that the Czech Republic is home to one of the highest incidence and mortality rates of colon and kidney cancer worldwide. Professor Ladislav Dušek from MU's Institute for Biostatistics and Analyses said one of the questions for the project to answer is whether the environment is to blame for the exceptionally high incidence of oncological diseases, like in the Plzen region for instance. In this region, far more people than elsewhere suffer from colorectal and kidney cancer alone.
'Both these types of cancer are linked to the gastrointestinal tract, and since there is a correlation between colon and kidney cancer in that region, it could point to some type of environmental exposure,' Professor Dušek explained.
Many others serious illneses could be connected with toxic chemicals in our environment. The new research centre will obtain data concerning environment pollution by toxic matter and add information about the behaviour and effects on the basis of knowledge from laboratory experiments, toxicologic tests and mathematic models. Then the centre's scientists will create complete databases of pollution in a particular area.
The authors of the project said many studies and a great deal of information about the sickness rate, on the one hand, and about the environment, on the other, exist in the Czech Republic, but little attention has been paid to links between the two areas.
'Databases are only a basis, and our main objective is to create a system that lets you search and establish a connection between the environmental and human health issues,' said Professor Holoubek, director of the Masaryk University´s research institute RECETOX, who is leading the project. 'This knowledge is extremely important for the management and decision-making competencies of the private sector and government.'
The researchers believe immunotoxicity (how chemicals can impact the human immune system) is a significant element of environmental pollution.
The new centre will focus on toxic substances and their impact. The researchers, for example, will investigate why the milk of lactating Czech women have the highest levels of the harmful manmade chemical PCB (polychlorinated biphenyl) in Europe.
MU Professor and Rector Petr Fiala said the project's implementation 'will lead to the improvement of human health and quality of life'.
In addition, Masaryk University is currently preparing the CEITEC project — a European centre of excellence, which will link various fields in life sciences and advanced materials and technologies. Construction works are scheduled to begin in 2011.