Why is the modern world making us ill? In this issue, Horizon examines the emerging field of exposomics, which looks for answers in the hidden world around us.
Chronic diseases such as cancer and asthma are on the rise in the developed world, and researchers are zeroing in on the elements in our environment that are to blame.
Horizon speaks to the research projects involved in the EU Exposome Initiative which are assessing the exposure of over 100 000 EU citizens to potential health risks in their surroundings, and finds out how the air inside modern offices could be playing havoc with our health.
We also learn about a study seeking to establish the effects of environment on life expectancy by comparing the health of adult twins, and discover why being too clean could give your children diabetes.
In our September issue, we interview Dr Chris Wild, the cancer scientist who first proposed that the best way to tackle chronic disease would be to study the totality of non-genetic factors that we are exposed to. He explains why more international research collaboration in the field is needed.
Over the last few decades buildings have become cleaner, leaner and increasingly air-tight, spurred on by a drive for energy efficiency. Now, however, scientists are showing that poor ventilation and indoor pollutants are not only linked to discomfort and decreased productivity, but also to allergies and respiratory disorders.
The EU is making important progress in researching the links between environment and disease, but the field needs more collaboration from the rest of the world, according to its pioneering researcher Dr Chris Wild, director of the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer.
Parents may one day feed high-strength bacteria to their kids in order to stop them from developing early onset diabetes, after research showed that over-hygienic environments are leading to a rise in incidences of the disease.
This month, Horizon explores the global challenge of biodiversity loss. Many experts believe we are in the midst of a sixth mass extinction, where human-caused factors such as land use and pollution are causing a decline in biodiversity – something that threatens the future of our own species. We speak to British ecologist Professor Georgina Mace about how bad the situation is and what we can do about it. We explore marine ecosystems, where species relocation outpaces that of terrestrial populations, and examine how we can help these environments adapt. We also look into the link between food insecurity and biodiversity degradation, and find out what’s in store for bees – our pollinators. Finally, we investigate the services nature provides for people – from cleaning our water to acting as a carbon sink – and ask whether putting a value on natural capital could help save it.
Fifty years after humans first set foot on the moon, Earth’s only permanent natural satellite is back in the news with China’s successful landing on the moon’s as-yet-unexplored far side. This month, Horizon looks at how Europe is contributing to moon research. We hear from the European Space Agency’s director of human and robotic exploration about their plans to send a robot and then humans to the lunar surface in the 2020s, and speak to the scientists trying to fill the holes in our understanding of how the moon was formed. We also hear how we could solve the puzzle of where water on Earth originated by analysing volatile substances from the moon, and take a look at the methods and facilities being developed to protect precious extra-terrestrial samples from human contamination.
Nature provides people with everything from food and water to timber, textiles, medicinal resources and pollination of crops. Now, a new approach aims to measure exactly what a specific ecosystem supplies in order to incentivise decision-makers and businesses to help combat biodiversity loss.
Europe’s position on privacy, regulation and competition could be a key way to attract entrepreneurs who share those values but there is still some work to do in encouraging ambition, according to Nicklas Bergman, a Swedish entrepreneur and technology investor. Over the past two years, he and other entrepreneurs have advised the European Commission on the design of the European Innovation Council (EIC), an initiative to support companies, researchers and entrepreneurs hoping to start their own business or scale up their projects internationally. The second phase of the pilot was launched on 18 March 2019.
To protect species, we need to speak the language of business, say experts.
He has advised the EU on its new European Innovation Council.
Species loss needs urgent international action, says Prof. Georgina Mace.