Channing Research into Environmental Risk Factors for Chronic Disease

Environmental exposures, such as air pollution, water pollution, endocrine-disrupting chemicals, persistent organic pollutants, metals, ultraviolet radiation, and exposures to nature have been shown to influence mortality and the incidence and severity of many chronic diseases.

Current Research

Investigators at the Channing Division of Network Medicine (CDNM) have a comprehensive research strategy to:

  • Measure or model environmental exposures across the life course
  • Study the epidemiology of these exposures on multiple chronic diseases
  • Identify biological mechanisms and behaviors influencing disease risk
  • Explore the role of gene-environment interactions


Impacts of indoor and outdoor air pollution

CDNM has published some of the seminal studies on the associations of indoor and outdoor air pollution with health. These studies have shown that increasing exposures to ambient air pollution are associated with increased mortality, cardiopulmonary disease, and lung cancer, to name a few. Indoor exposures to allergens in dust have been associated with numerous adverse asthma outcomes in children and young adults.

Current research explores the interaction of multiple pollutants with other environmental exposures (e.g., temperature), personal characteristics (e.g., age, sex), and lifestyle factors (e.g., physical activity, diet).

Impacts of persistent chemicals and metals

CDNM researchers are investigating the impacts of numerous persistent chemicals (e.g., polychlorinated biphenyls, per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) and metals (e.g., lead, mercury) on metabolic diseases, cancer, and hypertension in adults and neuro-cognitive behavior and development in children and young adults.

Impacts of natural vegetation (greenness)

CDNM researchers are leaders in the growing field of the impacts of the natural environment on health. This research includes assessments of the impacts of greenness (objectively measured quantity of natural vegetation) on physical activity, obesity, mental health, cardiopulmonary disease, cancer, and mortality. We are also examining how natural vegetation reduces or enhances impacts of other environmental exposures.

We apply a multidisciplinary approach to holistically understand the impacts of the environment on health. CDNM closely collaborates with the Department of Environmental Health at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Study populations

CDNM investigators utilize numerous existing study populations, as well as develop new populations, to study specific exposure-disease relationships. These include but are not limited to: