The concept of the exposome was initially described by Christopher Wild as the environmental correlate of the genome; the totality of environmental factors, including occupational exposures, an individual encounters over their life-course and their impact on health. Recent efforts have begun to investigate the potential for using both multi-scale ‘omic approaches including genomics, proteomics and metabolomics and large scale exposure assessments using personal exposure monitors (sensors), smart phones and other traditional exposure metrics to demonstrate the power of the exposome as a tool for hypothesis generation as a proof of principle. The resulting indicators of exposure and response are potentially powerful tools for understanding and preventing disease.
Work is an important determinant of a persons own health and potentially that of their children. However, although many factors have been identified that relate to ill-health there are likely many more to be discovered and quantified. The nature of these risks may however be different than the ones detected to date (e.g. carrying lower risks, potentially act through interactions etc). Therefore, there is a pressing need to improve exposure assessment by both being able to quantify exposures more at the individual level and by being able to more comprehensively measure the totality of these exposures. Although, the concept may be appealing it would require significant improvements in investigative tools such as the use of small wearable sensors and the use of global analysis technologies (“-omics”). In addition, it would require new analytical approaches such as data mining and statistical methods that can handle correlated and protracting exposures.
The exposome concept is relevant to the occupational workplace and relates well to the total worker health paradigm. Although, some initial results have shown promise of these new technologies in identifying and quantifying occupational exposures and adverse effects more development and theoretical work is needed.
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