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Health Risk Analysis

Environmental Health Risk Analysis

Centre of Excellence for Environmental Health Risk Analysis forms the umbrella that covers most of the present research at KTL Department of Environmental Health. Our Centre of Excellence for Environmental Health Risk Analysis, nominated by Academy of Finland for years 2002-2007, is aimed at improving risk analysis methodology. It uses dioxins and urban air particles as two different examples of environmental pollution and challenges for risk assessment and management. The data on dioxins comes mostly from experimental studies on animals, whereas most air pollution studies are epidemiological. Risk analysis methods are examined both in theory and real-life case studies in order to develop a more unified approach to risk analysis. We also need better modelling tools to deal with complex exposures and outcomes, and to incorporate risk tradeoffs, and uncertainties. Environmental health risk analysis must be based on high quality multidisciplinary science. We focus on selected themes and study them from exposures to health effects. Therefore, the Centre of Excellence research is conducted in multicenter studies with the most capable domestic and foreign collaborators.

Research team at KTL:

International collaboration:

  • Harvard Center for Risk Analysis, Boston, USA


  • Academy of Finland
  • National Public Health Institute, Finland
  • TEKES, Finland

Contact person:

  • Jouni Tuomisto


Environmental health risk analysis is fragmented. More coherence is needed in the weight given to diffenent kinds of scientific data and treatment of uncertainties. Decision situations should be taken into account more readily.


The aim of the project is to improve risk analysis methodology using dioxins and urban air particles as two very different examples of environmental pollution and thus two different challenges for risk assessment and management.


The data on dioxins comes mostly from experimental studies on animals, whereas most air pollution studies are observational human studies. The approaches and assumptions used in the risk assessments of these two pollutants are studied and compared. Risk analysis methods are examined both theoretically, as with extrapolation procedures, and with real-life case studies on decision situations where the potential health effects of these pollutants may have a significant role. We aim to develop a more unified approach to risk analysis. We need better modelling tools, which can deal with complex exposures and outcomes, risk tradeoffs, and also incorporate the assessment of uncertainties. This project is closely linked to research on exposures, mechanisms of action and health effects of dioxins and particulate air pollution in our institute.

Research projects

  • Comparative Risk Analysis of Dioxins and Fine Particles (PMvsDioxin)
  • Benefit-Risk Assessment for Food: an Iterative Value-of-Information Approach (Beneris)
  • Integrated assessment of health risks of environmental stressors in Europe (INTARESE)
  • Probabilistic Characterization of Uncertainty in Mortality Response to Airborne Fine Particulate Matter (Expert Elicitation on PM)
  • Health risks from nearby sources of fine particulate matter: domestic combustion and road traffic (PILTTI)
  • Composite traffic project. Health, environmental, and other costs of urban car traffic and an alternative novel transport system based on demand-responsive public transportation. (Composite traffic, in finnish YHDISTELMÄLIIKENNE)
  • Health Effects caused by Urban Air Pollution for the Transport System Plan Scenarios in Helsinki Area (HEAT)
  • An integrated model for evaluating the emissions, atmospheric dispersion and risks caused by ambient air fine particulate matter (KOPRA)
  • Health Effects Caused by Primary fine Particulate Matter (PM2.5) Emitted from Buses in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area, Finland (GASBUS)
  • Risk benefit analysis of eating farmed salmon (Farmed Salmon)
  • Comprehensive risk analysis of dioxins: development of methodology to assess genetic susceptibility to developmental disturbances and cancer (Dioxin risk assessment)


Research projects

Recent projects at the Department of Environmental Health on the field of air pollution research. Areas covered: exposure to urban air pollution and emissions from combustion engines, and associated health effects.

  • Air pollution and inflammatory response in myocardial infarction survivors: gene-environment-interactions in a high-risk group (AIRGENE)
  • Elemental analysis and source apportionment of personal PM2.5 exposure (EAS-EXPOLIS)
  • European exposure factors sourcebook (EXPOFACTS)
  • Population exposures to urban air pollution (EXPOLIS)
  • Integrated systems for forecasting urban meteorology, air pollution and population exposure (FUMAPEX)
  • Health Effects of Air Pollution on Susceptible Subpopulations – traditional air pollutants, ultrafine particles and myocardial infarction: database and health assessment (HEAPSS)
  • Health effects and risks of transport systems (HEARTS)
  • Relationship between Ultrafine and fine Particulate matter in Indoor and Outdoor air and respiratory Health (RUPIOH)
  • Exposure and risk assessment for fine and ultrafine particles in ambient air (ULTRA1 & ULTRA2)


Research in environmental health at KTL focuses on the following areas: :

  • Air Pollution
  • Health Risk Analysis
  • Drinking Water
  • Asthma and Allergies
  • Mouldy buildings
  • Chemicals

Asthma and Allergies

Asthma and allergies are increasing in the industrialised countries. Old theories about allergy prevention have been challenged and new theories are only taking shape. Exposures during pregnancy and early childhood, however, appear to be crucial and therefore our research focuses on the prevalence and determinants of asthma and allergies in childhood. Our main research tools are prospective cohort studies beginning from pregnancy, with focus on environmental microbial exposures. These exposures may provoke respiratory symptoms, but also divert the immune system development in early childhood away from allergies. This is exemplified in the lower prevalence of allergies among children living in farms.

We have used existing cohorts, like those started in 1966 and 1985/86 by University of Oulu to study the influence of perinatal factors on the the risk of allergy in later life. The prevalence of asthma and allergy in Finland has been assessed by the ISAAC study. Main current projects, like ALMA and PASTURE focus on the protective effect of the farming environment. However

other research

Many environmental exposures originate from point sources such as industrial plants or dump areas. Because the point sources are often easy to recognize, they can be associated with strong negative attitudes and even fears. Only the suspicion of increased risk in a region can cause remarkable psychological and economical consequences. Therefore, rapid initial answers providing methods are needed.

The Unit of Environmental Epidemiology holds small area system called SMASH . SMASH can be used in initial assessment of possibly increased risk of cancer in a freely selected areas in Finland. In different projects the statistical and epidemiological methods for the assessment of health risks around point sources are further improved.

Drinking Water

KTL deals with all waterborne epidemics nationwide. Since 1997, 30 epidemics comprising 20,000 diarrhoea patients were disclosed. Calicivirus and campylobacteria were the microbes responsible for most outbreaks. In ten cases, the same microbe was identified from both the patients and their drinking water.

A biofilm is always formed on the inner surfaces of drinking water pipelines. It is composed of inorganic and organic matter and microbes. We study the impact of the properties of water on the formation of biofilms and the fate of pathogenic microbes on them. This research involves experiments in both laboratory and municipal water system scale.

Disinfecting involves chlorine and ozone, which are capable of breaking and oxidising organic molecules in water and living organisms. We study by-products formed in these processes in the absence and presence of bromide. Our aim is to develop effective and safe drinking water treatments for the municipal waterworks.

Mouldy buildings

Most of us spend our time mainly indoors, in contact with indoor surfaces and breathing indoor air. Modern buildings with their complicated structures and technical equipment are vulnerable for moisture problems, which often lead to microbial growth on building surfaces and health problems of the occupants. Mouldy environment is a risk factor for asthma, respiratory infections and irritation symptoms. This is an old and universal phenomenon, yet its causative agents, exposure patterns and mechanisms of action are poorly understood.

Our research on indoor microbes and health focuses on characterising the exposures and health effects linked with building moisture and microbial growth. We analyse and model the processes leading to moisture damage, the microbial ecology in the buildings, especially the behaviour of toxin-producing microbes on moist building materials, and develop exposure assessment methods. Since only few of the exposed subjects develop IgE mediated allergies to microbes, a major challenge is to explain how the observed symptoms develop via other immunologic pathways, such as non-specific inflammation. Experimental, epidemiological and clinical approaches are used in this research.

Laboratory of Air Hygiene

Laboratory of Air Hygiene conducts research on the air pollution exposure. The main objectives of the laboratory are:

  • to assess the air pollution exposure levels and distributions of European urban populations, especially exposures to fine particles (PM2.5)
  • to analyse personal, social and environmental determinants of air pollution exposures
  • to develop a European database for simulation of air pollution exposure
  • to develop a probabilistic simulation technique for modeling the exposures of subpopulations and impacts of urban development alternatives on exposures
  • to identify the sources of and determine their contributions to fine particle mass concentrations in personal exposures and in home and workplace microenvironments.


  • Prof. Matti Jantunen, Head of the Laboratory

Postal address

P.O.Box 95 FIN-70701 Kuopio Finland

Street address Neulaniementie 4 FIN-70210 Kuopio Finland

Laboratory of Chemistry, Chemical Exposure Unit

Chemical exposure unit is doing research especially on:

  • Compounds formed during drinking water treatment processes: their formation and health effects
  • Accumulation of persistent organic pollutants to the environment and their health effects
  • Research projects on persistent organic pollutants (POP) consist of:
  • Occurrence of POPs in the environment
  • Levels of POPs in fish
  • Dietary intake of POPs
  • Levels of POPs in breast milk: surveillance study in Finland
  • Epidemiology of POPs: exposure studies, disease association studies

Chemical Exposure Unit provides analytical services with the aim to:

  • Promote public health and improve state of the environment
  • Environmental health research

Quality system of the laboratory of Chemical Exposure Unit is accredited according to standard SFS-EN ISO/IEC 17025 by the Finnish Centre for Metrology and Accreditation. Accreditation code is TO77. Fields of testing cover chemical testing of samples of environmental and biological origin. These include:

  • POPs from biological and non-biological samples
  • Organometallic compounds form biological and non-biological samples
  • PFOS/PFOA from serum


  • Hannu Kiviranta, Head of the Unit

Phone +358 20 610 6361 hannu.kiviranta@thl.fi


  • Seija Nyholm, Secretary

Phone +358 20 610 6341 seija.nyholm@thl.fi

Postal address P.O. Box 95 FIN-70701 Kuopio Finland

Street address Neulaniementie 4 FIN-70210 Kuopio Finland


Laboratory of Toxicology studies effects and the mechanisms of effects of environmental chemical, biological and physical exposures in cells, laboratory animals and exposed people and performs health risk assessment. In the main research themes of the Department the focus is

  • in dioxins, the mechanisms of the acute toxicity, developmental effects
  • in air pollution, toxicity and inflammatory effects of fine and ultrafine particles
  • in moldy buildings, inflammatory and immunotoxic effects of microbes
  • in drinking water, carcinogenicity of disinfection byproducts, contaminants in well water


  • Hannu Komulainen, Ph.D.

Head of the Laboratory Phone. +358 20 610 6322 hannu.komulainen@thl.fi

  • Heli Leinonen

Secretary Phone +358 20 610 6321 heli.leinonen@thl.fi

Fax 020 610 6499

Postal address P.O.Box 95 FIN-70701 Kuopio Finland

Street address Neulaniementie 4 FIN-70210 Kuopio Finland


Unit of Environmental Epidemiology focuses on environmental determinants of respiratory diseases, allergies, and cancer. The unit conducts epidemiological studies in all main research themes of the Department with a special focus

  • in air pollution, on ultrafine particles (ULTRA and HEAPSS) and in risk assessment
  • in moldy buildinds, on respiratory irritation, and inflammation
  • in asthma and allergies, on early microbial exposure (PASTURE)
  • in cancer, on development of small area health statistics systems (EUROHEIS)


  • Tarja Yli-Tuomi

Tel +358 20 610 6302 tarja-yli-tuomi@thl.fi

  • Tarja Salmi

Secretary Phone +358 20 610 6359 tarja.salmi@thl.fi

Fax +358 20 610 6498

Postal address P.O.Box 95 FIN-70701 Kuopio Finland

Street address Neulaniementie 4 FIN-70210 Kuopio Finland

Laboratory of Environmental Microbiology

The laboratory of environmental microbiology studies environmental microbes in connection with human health. Our special research interests are

  • indoor air problems caused by mouldy buildings and health effects connected with them
  • microbiological health risks of drinking water and water systems.


  • Aino Nevalainen

Head of the Laboratory, Research professor Phone +358 20 610 6342 aino.nevalainen@thl.fi

  • Kirsi Korhonen

Secretary Phone +358 20 610 6363 kirsi.korhonen@thl.fi

Fax 020 610 6497

Postal address P.O.Box 95 FIN-70701 Kuopio Finland

Street address Neulaniementie 4 FIN-70210 Kuopio Finland


Head of the Department Prof. Juha Pekkanen Phone +358 20 610 6368

Secretary Tarja Salmi Phone +358 20 610 6359

E-mail firstname.lastname@thl.fi


Secretary Anelma Julkunen Phone +358-20 610 6301 Fax +358-20 610 6499

Postal address P.O.Box 95 FIN-70701 Kuopio Finland

Street address Neulaniementie 4 FIN-70210 Kuopio Finland


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