Environment, society and health

Children by lake

The emission of chemicals into the atmosphere may have a variety of effects, influencing aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems, leading to loss of biodiversity and causing economic damage. These pollutants also have substantial impacts on human health and society.

Air pollution, for example, is responsible for approximately 25% of diseases that afflict Europeans, primarily affecting the cardiovascular and respiratory system. Children, our next generation, are among the most vulnerable. Reducing both outdoor (such as from industry smokestacks or automobile tailpipes) and indoor air pollution ( such as from tobacco smoke or household fuels) is therefore an important measure to protect and improve our quality of life and to protect the natural world.

Air pollution not only damages the environment and harms human health, but can also have economic consequences. Thus, the development of policies to reduce emissions has to consider many factors that influence human health, ecology and the economy. The so-called DPSEEA model (Driver, Pressure, State, Exposure, Effect and Action) has been developed to support informed decision making.


With the help of DPSEEA, NILU is assessing emission factors at the local, regional and global scale that are responsible for atmospheric changes, including climate change. The risks posed by the effects of atmospheric changes on aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems and human health are evaluated with the help of exposure scenarios and risk assessment models. The toxic potential of several environmental or engineered substances (such as nanoparticles) is tested at NILU’s own Health Effects Laboratory. The results from this research are combined with assessments of existing policies using cost-benefit analyses and are then used to develop new policy recommendations.

In order to be able to tackle the broad spectrum of issues related to the complex topic of environment, health and society, NILU has established an interdisciplinary research team.