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Environmental Exposures and Health –Mechanisms and Their Contingencies in a Developmental Perspective

A special issue of International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health (ISSN 1660-4601). This special issue belongs to the section "Environmental Health".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 January 2023) | Viewed by 21295

Special Issue Editors


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Guest Editor
Department of Hygiene and Ecomedicine, Faculty of Public Health, Medical University of Plovdiv, 4002 Plovdiv, Bulgaria
Interests: environmental and occupational epidemiology; health effects of traffic noise and natural outdoor environments; mediation and conditional process analyses; systematic reviews and meta-analyses

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Assistant Guest Editor
Institute of Psychology, Jagiellonian University, 30-060 Krakow, Poland
Interests: greenspace, air pollution and other place-related exposures; childhood health, especially, mental health, ADHD and allergic outcomes
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals

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Assistant Guest Editor
Virtual Reality & Nature (VRN) Lab, Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management, Clemson University, Clemson, SC 29631, USA
Interests: environmental epidemology, restorative environments, green space, blue space, environmental psychology, urban greening, mental health, cognitive performance, systematic reviews, virtual reality
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

We are organizing a Special Issue on the mechanisms behind the effects of environmental exposures on human health in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. This venue is a peer-reviewed scientific journal that publishes articles and communications in the interdisciplinary area of environmental health sciences and public health. For more information on the journal, please visit https://www.mdpi.com/journal/ijerph.

In a developmental or life course perspective, human health is known to be programmed by early childhood contextual influences. Thus, it is continuously shaped by transactions occurring between individuals and their surrounding environment. The underlying complex processes are driven by a broad range of environmental, social, and behavioral factors (the exposome) that modify existing biopsychosocial pathways. Mechanistic research is an indispensable key to developing evidence-based environmental policy and public health interventions to prevent distant effects. However, incomplete understanding of the pathways at the various age stages at which environmental exposures impact health creates inefficiency. Traditional statistical approaches to examining mechanisms—such as the Baron and Kenny and difference-of-coefficient methods—can be misleading and provide limited insight. Conversely, modern approaches, such as structural equation modeling, rely on less restrictive assumptions and allow for modeling mediators operating together, rather than only independently or in parallel. Examples of complex but realistic models include serial mediation, unmeasured exposure-mediators, mediator-mediator and mediator-outcome confounding, and potentially involved moderation processes at each of these levels. Ultimately, adequate translation from theoretical to statistical models should provide scholars with the opportunity to make more reliable conclusions about the immediate or later effects of exposures on health.

We welcome submissions to this Special Issue that focus on sophisticated mediation–moderation modeling approaches to understand myriad environmental exposures. Exposures of interest include, but are not limited to, air pollution, traffic noise, vibration, green/blue spaces, social gradients/support, urbanicity, and built and food environments. Submissions should thoroughly address the indirect pathways or modifiers of the association between these exposures and health. Preference will be given to studies that address at least one of the following issues: mediation, moderation, or conditional process analysis (moderated mediation); multiple intervening variables working together; interactions on both additive and multiplicative scales; joint effects of spatially correlated variables; potentially bidirectional associations; cross-level interactions in multilevel models; and longitudinal growth trajectories (even into adulthood). We will appreciate studies on populations (e.g., neonates, children, and adolescents) hitherto rarely investigated with respect to underlying mechanisms. That said, we may also consider mechanistic studies in adults that are strongly supported by theory and interpret their findings through the lens of intervening variables or interaction effects in a longitudinal perspective. Submission of studies on single factor relationships (i.e., total/main effects only) are discouraged. The listed keywords below suggest a few of the many possibilities.

Dr. Peter Lercher
Dr. Angel Dzhambov
Dr. Iana Markevych
Dr. Matthew Browning
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All submissions that pass pre-check are peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 2500 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • Mediation analysis
  • Moderation
  • Interaction
  • SEM
  • Serial mediation
  • Spatial interrelation
  • Growth trajectories
  • Exposome
  • Co-exposures
  • Built environment
  • Aging in place
  • Traffic noise
  • Airport noise
  • Air pollution
  • Vibration
  • Food environment
  • Urbanicity
  • Socioeconomic status
  • Social support
  • Green spaces
  • Greenness
  • Blue spaces
  • Restorative quality
  • Nature
  • Public health
  • Health geography
  • Sense of community
  • Quality of life
  • Annoyance
  • Physical activity
  • Walkability
  • Social participation
  • Leisure
  • Environmental exposure
  • Emissions
  • Mental health
  • Cardiovascular health
  • Respiratory health/allergies

Published Papers (6 papers)

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Research

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22 pages, 8033 KiB  
Article
Assessing Emotional Responses to the Spatial Quality of Urban Green Spaces through Self-Report and Face Recognition Measures
by Lin Qiao, Jingwei Zhuang, Xuan Zhang, Yang Su and Yiping Xia
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18(16), 8526; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18168526 - 12 Aug 2021
Cited by 6 | Viewed by 3079
Abstract
Although creating a high-quality urban green space (UGS) is of considerable importance in public health, few studies have used individuals’ emotions to evaluate the UGS quality. This study aims to conduct a multidimensional emotional assessment method of UGS from the perspective of spatial [...] Read more.
Although creating a high-quality urban green space (UGS) is of considerable importance in public health, few studies have used individuals’ emotions to evaluate the UGS quality. This study aims to conduct a multidimensional emotional assessment method of UGS from the perspective of spatial quality. Panoramic videos of 15 scenes in the West Lake Scenic Area were displayed to 34 participants. For each scene, 12 attributes regarding spatial quality were quantified, including perceived plant attributes, spatial structure attributes, and experiences of UGS. Then, the Self-Assessment-Manikin (SAM) scale and face recognition model were used to measure people’s valence-arousal emotion values. Among all the predictors, the percentages of water and plants were the most predictive indicators of emotional responses measured by SAM scale, while the interpretation rate of the model measured by face recognition was insufficiently high. Concerning gender differences, women experienced a significantly higher valence than men. Higher percentages of water and plants, larger sizes, approximate shape index, and lower canopy densities were often related to positive emotions. Hence, designers must consider all structural attributes of green spaces, as well as enrich visual perception and provide various activities while creating a UGS. In addition, we suggest combining both physiological and psychological methods to assess emotional responses in future studies. Because the face recognition model can provide objective measurement of emotional responses, and the self-report questionnaire is much easier to administer and can be used as a supplement. Full article
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11 pages, 849 KiB  
Article
A Childhood Farm Environment Protects from Allergic Sensitization until Middle Age but Not from New-Onset Sensitization in Adulthood: A 15 Year Longitudinal Study
by Anna Karoliina Haarala, Suvi-Päivikki Sinikumpu, Eeva Vaaramo, Jari Jokelainen, Markku Timonen, Juha Auvinen, Juha Pekkanen and Laura Huilaja
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18(13), 7078; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18137078 - 2 Jul 2021
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 2227
Abstract
Data are insufficient on the protective effect of a farm environment in childhood regarding sensitization in middle age and new-onset sensitization in adulthood. A skin prick test (SPT) and questionnaire data from the Northern Finland Birth Cohort 1966 study (NFBC66) were used to [...] Read more.
Data are insufficient on the protective effect of a farm environment in childhood regarding sensitization in middle age and new-onset sensitization in adulthood. A skin prick test (SPT) and questionnaire data from the Northern Finland Birth Cohort 1966 study (NFBC66) were used to investigate sensitization at age 46 years related to childhood living environment. A subpopulation of 3409 participants was analyzed to study factors related to new-onset sensitization between ages of 31 and 46 years. Data on complete SPTs were available for 5373 cohort members at age 46. Professional farming by parents (odds ratio (OR) 0.54; 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.43–0.68) and keeping of farm animals (OR 0.53; 95% CI 0.43–0.66) in infancy were associated with a lower risk of sensitization at age 46. Sensitization (OR 0.58; 95% CI 0.47–0.72) and polysensitization (OR 0.43; 95% CI 0.32–0.57) were less common in those who lived in a rural area in infancy compared to a city area. The childhood living environment had no effect on new-onset sensitization between ages 31 and 46. We conclude that living on a farm or in a rural environment in childhood had a protective effect on sensitization even in middle age, but these factors did not protect from new-onset sensitization in adults. Full article
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21 pages, 1179 KiB  
Article
University Students’ Self-Rated Health in Relation to Perceived Acoustic Environment during the COVID-19 Home Quarantine
by Angel M. Dzhambov, Peter Lercher, Drozdstoy Stoyanov, Nadezhda Petrova, Stoyan Novakov and Donka D. Dimitrova
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18(5), 2538; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18052538 - 4 Mar 2021
Cited by 29 | Viewed by 4763
Abstract
Background: Online education became mandatory for many students during the Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic and blurred the distinction between settings where processes of stress and restoration used to take place. The lockdown also likely changed perceptions of the indoor acoustic environment (i.e., [...] Read more.
Background: Online education became mandatory for many students during the Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic and blurred the distinction between settings where processes of stress and restoration used to take place. The lockdown also likely changed perceptions of the indoor acoustic environment (i.e., soundscape) and raised its importance. In the present study, we seek to understand how indoor soundscape related to university students’ self-rated health in Bulgaria around the time that the country was under a state of emergency declaration caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Methods: Between 17 May and 10 June 2020, we conducted a cross-sectional online survey among 323 students (median age 21 years; 31% male) from two universities in the city of Plovdiv, Bulgaria. Self-rated health (SRH) was measured with a single-item. Participants were asked how frequently they heard different types of sounds while at home and how pleasant they considered each of those sounds to be. Restorative quality of the home (the “being away” dimension of the Perceived Restorativeness Scale) was measured with a single-item. A priori confounders and effect modifiers included sociodemographics, house-related characteristics, general sensitivity to environmental influences, and mental health. Our analysis strategy involved sequential exploratory factor analysis (EFA), multivariate linear and ordinal regressions, effect modification tests, and structural equation modeling (SEM). Results: EFA supported grouping perceived sounds into three distinct factors—mechanical, human, and nature sounds. Regression analyses revealed that greater exposure to mechanical sounds was consistently associated with worse SRH, whereas no significant associations were found for human and nature sounds. In SEM, exposure to mechanical sounds related to lower restorative quality of the home, and then to poorer SRH, whereas nature sounds correlated with higher restorative quality, and in turn with better SRH. Conclusions: These findings suggest a role of positive indoor soundscape and restorative quality for promoting self-rated health in times of social distancing. Full article
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17 pages, 3064 KiB  
Article
Green, Brown, and Gray: Associations between Different Measurements of Land Patterns and Depression among Nursing Students in El Paso, Texas
by José Ignacio Nazif-Munoz, José Guillermo Cedeno Laurent, Matthew Browning, John Spengler and Héctor A. Olvera Álvarez
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17(21), 8146; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17218146 - 4 Nov 2020
Cited by 9 | Viewed by 3690
Abstract
Background: While greenness has been associated with lower depression, the generalizability of this association in arid landscapes remains undetermined. We assessed the association between depression and residential greenness, but also brownness and grayness among nursing students living in El Paso, Texas (the Chihuahuan [...] Read more.
Background: While greenness has been associated with lower depression, the generalizability of this association in arid landscapes remains undetermined. We assessed the association between depression and residential greenness, but also brownness and grayness among nursing students living in El Paso, Texas (the Chihuahuan desert). Methods: Depression was measured with the Patient Health Questionnaire-9 scale and greenness with the normalized difference vegetation index across three buffer sizes (i.e., 250, 500, and 1000 m). Using data from the National Land Cover Database, two additional measures of land patterns were analyzed: grayness and brownness. Structural equation models were used to assess the relationships of these land patterns to depression and quantify the indirect effects of peer alienation. Results: After adjusting for individual characteristics, at buffers 250 m, greenness was not associated with a decrease in the Incidence Rate Ratios (IRR) of depression (IRR, 0.51; 95% CI, 0.12–2.10); however, grayness and brownness were respectively associated with increases by 64% (IRR, 1.64; 95% CI, 1.07–2.52) and decreases by 35% (IRR, 0.65; 95% CI, 0.42–0.99). At buffer 250 m, peer alienation explained 17.43% (95% CI, −1.79–36.66) of the association between depression and brownness, suggesting a pathway to depression. Conclusions: We did not observe an association between depression and residential greenness in El Paso, Texas. However, we did observe a protective association between brownness and depression and an adverse association with grayness. These results have theoretical implications as they were based on commonly used frameworks in this literature, and adverse association of brownness (and the lack of greenness) and depression was expected. Full article
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14 pages, 961 KiB  
Article
Associations of Preconception Exposure to Air Pollution and Greenness with Offspring Asthma and Hay Fever
by Ingrid Nordeide Kuiper, Iana Markevych, Simone Accordini, Randi J. Bertelsen, Lennart Bråbäck, Jesper Heile Christensen, Bertil Forsberg, Thomas Halvorsen, Joachim Heinrich, Ole Hertel, Gerard Hoek, Mathias Holm, Kees de Hoogh, Christer Janson, Andrei Malinovschi, Alessandro Marcon, Torben Sigsgaard, Cecilie Svanes and Ane Johannessen
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17(16), 5828; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17165828 - 12 Aug 2020
Cited by 29 | Viewed by 4384
Abstract
We investigated if greenness and air pollution exposure in parents’ childhood affect offspring asthma and hay fever, and if effects were mediated through parental asthma, pregnancy greenness/pollution exposure, and offspring exposure. We analysed 1106 parents with 1949 offspring (mean age 35 and 6) [...] Read more.
We investigated if greenness and air pollution exposure in parents’ childhood affect offspring asthma and hay fever, and if effects were mediated through parental asthma, pregnancy greenness/pollution exposure, and offspring exposure. We analysed 1106 parents with 1949 offspring (mean age 35 and 6) from the Respiratory Health in Northern Europe, Spain and Australia (RHINESSA) generation study. Mean particulate matter (PM2.5 and PM10), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), black carbon (BC), ozone (O3) (µg/m3) and greenness (normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI)) were calculated for parents 0–18 years old and offspring 0–10 years old, and were categorised in tertiles. We performed logistic regression and mediation analyses for two-pollutant models (clustered by family and centre, stratified by parental lines, and adjusted for grandparental asthma and education). Maternal medium PM2.5 and PM10 exposure was associated with higher offspring asthma risk (odds ratio (OR) 2.23, 95%CI 1.32–3.78, OR 2.27, 95%CI 1.36–3.80), and paternal high BC exposure with lower asthma risk (OR 0.31, 95%CI 0.11–0.87). Hay fever risk increased for offspring of fathers with medium O3 exposure (OR 4.15, 95%CI 1.28–13.50) and mothers with high PM10 exposure (OR 2.66, 95%CI 1.19–5.91). The effect of maternal PM10 exposure on offspring asthma was direct, while for hay fever, it was mediated through exposures in pregnancy and offspring’s own exposures. Paternal O3 exposure had a direct effect on offspring hay fever. To conclude, parental exposure to air pollution appears to influence the risk of asthma and allergies in future offspring. Full article
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21 pages, 2949 KiB  
Case Report
Personalised and Sustainable IEQ Monitoring: Use of Multi-Modal and Pervasive Technologies
by Graham Coulby, Adrian K. Clear, Oliver Jones and Alan Godfrey
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2023, 20(6), 4897; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph20064897 - 10 Mar 2023
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 1442
Abstract
Background: Monitoring indoor environmental quality (IEQ) is important to better understand occupant health. Passive IEQ monitoring with digital technologies may provide insightful quantitative data to better inform, e.g., health interventions. Yet, many traditional approaches with known IEQ technologies have limited utility due to [...] Read more.
Background: Monitoring indoor environmental quality (IEQ) is important to better understand occupant health. Passive IEQ monitoring with digital technologies may provide insightful quantitative data to better inform, e.g., health interventions. Yet, many traditional approaches with known IEQ technologies have limited utility due to high costs or coarse granularity—focusing on the collective rather than individuals. Equally, subjective approaches (e.g., manual surveys) have poor adherence (i.e., are burdensome). There is a need for holistic IEQ measurement techniques that are sustainable (affordable, i.e., low-cost) and personalised. Here, the aim of this case report is to explore the use of low-cost digital approaches to gather personalised quantitative and qualitative data. Methods: This study deploys a personalised monitoring approach with IEQ devices coupled to wearables, weather data, and qualitative data, captured through a post-study interview. Results: The mixed-method, single-case approach gathered data continuously for six months with a reduced burden, by using digital technologies to affirm environmental factors, which were subjectively evaluated by the participant. Quantitative data reinforced qualitative data, removing the need for generalising qualitative findings against a collective. Conclusions: This study showed that the single-case, mixed-method approach used here can provide a holistic approach not previously obtainable with traditional pen-and-paper techniques alone. The use of a low-cost multi-modal device linked with common home and wearable technology suggest a contemporary and sustainable IEQ measurement approach that could inform future work to better determine occupant health. Full article
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