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A Longitudinal Study of the Development and Changes in Environmental Intolerance

Research project Sensitivity to factors in the physical/chemical environment can have serious consequences, and some individuals show sensitivity to a variety of environmental factors even at exposure levels that usually do not affect most people.

The results from this study to provide unique insights into how environmental intolerance evolves and changes over time, providing valuable information about how intolerance can be treated or prevented before it adversely affects the individual's quality of life and health.

Head of project

Project overview

Project period:

2014-01-01 2019-12-31

Funding

The Swedish Asthma and Allergy Association Research Foundation

Participating departments and units at Umeå University

Faculty of Social Sciences

Project description

Sensitivity to factors in the physical/chemical environment can have serious consequences, and some individuals show sensitivity to a variety of environmental factors even at exposure levels that usually do not affect most people. In a recent study in Sweden, we found that more than one fifth of the normal population reports environmental intolerance to factors such as odorous substances, electromagnetic fields, noise and being in some indoor environments. Symptoms of these environmental problems include headache, nausea, skin irritation, eye irritation, fatigue, nasal irritation and problems with attention and memory. It is not uncommon for individuals with a certain type of sensory intolerance to develop other types of intolerance. Research from our group shows that the most common combination of environmental intolerance is the sensitivity to noise and chemical odorants.
Knowledge is limited how these sensitivities are acquired and how they development because most studies in the field consist of data from surveys and laboratory studies that are not designed to detect changes over longer periods of time. Some questions that these types of research design have difficulty responding to are: When do symptoms first start to be associated to an exposure to something in their environment? What is the role of strong exposures to the long-term development of an environmental intolerance? Is there a greater likelihood that people with a certain type of sensitivity also develop a different type of sensitivity?
This project is intended to specifically address these aspects by following individuals who either report no environmental intolerance or report intolerance to either chemical substances or noise (but not both) at the start of the project. Over a period of time, these individuals will use a web and app based reporting system to continuously report environmental and environmental impacts. We expect the results from this study to provide unique insights into how environmental intolerance evolves and changes over time, providing valuable information about how intolerance can be treated or prevented before it adversely affects the individual's quality of life and health.