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Environmental Exposure and Human Health


Toxicological effects associated with human exposure to exogenous chemicals have drawn increasing attention. A growing number of pollutants were detected in our environment, including industrial chemicals, drugs, personal care products and food additives. Continuous pollutant exposure could induce various adverse effects in endocrine, neurological and respiratory systems, making a threat to human health. Toxicological studies evaluate various adverse effects observed after the pollutants exposure at environment-related dose levels. Based on the analysis of biological fluids and tissues, the pollutants and its endogenous and exogenous metabolites are analyzed.

With the best mass spectrometry facility in Hong Kong, this project will focus on environmental exposure of air and water pollutions, with the association to human health.

Air pollution: Fine particulate matter (PM, with the diameter <2.5 μm) is the main air pollutant with complex compositions, which significantly affects the air quality and human health in China currently. Recent studies have shown that PM2.5 is associated with the incidence of many diseases. In this study, air samples from Taiyuan in Shanxi Province and Guangzhou in Guangdong Province will be collected for the investigation. Persistent organic pollutants will be analyzed by GC-MS and LC-MS. Temporal and spatial distribution characteristics of PM2.5 will be investigated.

Water pollution: The intensive use of disinfectants due to the increasing awareness of public and personal hygiene has caused growing concerns over environmental contamination in Hong Kong. It is of environmental and toxicological importance to investigate whether other toxic compounds may be presented or formed under environmental conditions of heavy discharge of disinfectants into the water environment. We propose to investigate the possible impact of the intensive use of disinfectants and bleaching materials and to monitor levels or environmental pollutants in wastewater and coastal water of Hong Kong. Chemical analyses will be performed by using GC-MS and LC-MS. Data will be evaluated for source, transport and environmental fate of the pollutants.

Toxicological study: Based on obtained results of chemical analysis, mass spectrometry-based omics and bioanalytical techniques will be established and applied for study on diseases induced by environmental pollutants by selecting cell and animal models. The metabolic pathways, associated proteins and DNA adducts will be clarified at molecular levels. It is expected that the obtained results may provide evidence for correlation between pollutants exposure and diseases development.

Required skills

Environmental chemistry or environmental analysis.

Principal Investigator


Dr. Cai

Prof. Zongwei Cai

Founding Kwok Yat Wai Endowed Chair of Environmental and Biological Analysis, Chair Professor,  Department of Chemistry



Dr. Hu

Dr. Di Hu

Assistant Professor, Department of Chemistry

Prof. Gao

Dr. Meng Gao

Assistant Professor, Department of Geography