“Already now, many people are struggling with their allergies a couple of months every year, as allergy medicines no longer alleviate their symptoms as they used to. This not only weakens their quality of life, but also costs a lot of money to society,” Roponen points out.
According to her, it is important to look ahead and see whether the treatment of pollen allergies could be adjusted to future conditions. More precise pollen forecasts could also help, and the required observation instruments are currently being developed in this project by the Finnish Meteorological Institute.
Research covering the effects of air pollution on neonatal health remains scarce
Roponen has been collaborating with Chinese research partners for a long time. China offers a unique setting for extensive research into exposure to air pollution in children born in industrial cities.
“There, it would be possible to investigate multifactorial exposure in mothers and children, i.e., not just their exposure to air pollution, but also exposures via food and drinking water,” she says.
“I have been dreaming of such a project for a long time, but the world political situation and the pandemic have hampered research activities in South-East Asia in particular. The effects of air pollution have been studied extensively in older people but, for some reason, children have been left out from the focus of research.”
When the project in China eventually starts, Roponen will be tasked with identifying the inflammatory status and disturbances in immunological system regulation and function in newborn babies. Epidemiologists and exposure and risk assessment specialists will work together to find possible associations between exposure during pregnancy, changes possibly observed in newborn babies, and increased risk of illness.
Research addressing human health, especially the health of babies, is a sensitive area, and this is why healthcare professionals are involved in the studies. In Finland, mothers are eager to participate in studies, because they want information and feel that participation is beneficial to them.
“It will be very interesting to see at which stage of pregnancy the effects are the most harmful. For example, maternity clinics could give pregnant mothers guidance on when to avoid traveling to areas that have high concentrations of air pollution,” Roponen says.
“In the long-term, these studies could provide information on which emissions should be restricted in order to best protect the health of unborn children.”
- Professor of Toxicology of Environmental Exposures, University of Eastern Finland, 1 August 2022–
- Doctor of Pharmacy, Toxicology, University of Kuopio, 2002
- Title of Docent in Immunotoxicology of Environmental Exposures, University of Eastern Finland, 2011
- Associate Professor (tenure track), Toxicology of Environmental Exposures, University of Eastern Finland, 2018–2022
- Senior Researcher, University of Eastern Finland, 2011–2018
- Postdoctoral Researcher, Telethon Institute for Child Health Research, Laboratory of Cell Biology, Perth, Australia, 2005–2007
- Researcher and Postdoctoral Researcher positions, National Public Health Institute, and Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare, 1998–2005, 2007–2011
- Deputy Head of the Department of Environmental and Biological Sciences, University of Eastern Finland, 2021–
Photos of Marjut Roponen: Photo1 and photo2