Illuminating the Exposome

Faculty members Janet Yang (communications), Sharmistha Baghchi-Sen (geography), and Kasia Kordas (epidemiology) at the Air Quality Ideas Lab.

Faculty members Janet Yang (communications), Sharmistha Baghchi-Sen (geography), and Kasia Kordas (epidemiology) at the Air Quality Ideas Lab

The leading environmental health hazard is air pollution. While this and other toxins in food and the environment have proven especially threatening in the first 1,000 days of life, little is known about the cumulative, life-course effects on physical and mental health. To illuminate the “exposome” – the totality of cultural, nutritional, and environmental exposures – we investigate intersections between biomarkers and geo-markers, daily routines and family histories, prenatal care and life-long habits.

What is Special About Early Life?

Children are very vulnerable during their first 1,000 days of life.  In the womb, embryonic or fetal tissue is highly sensitive and organs are developing. After birth, a young child goes through rapid growth and development with changes in organ system functioning, metabolic capacities, physical size, and immature defense systems. It is during this time period that they are particularly vulnerable to environmental exposure.

What is the Exposome?

The exposome is the sum exposure, the totality of environmental exposures from conception onwards. The exposome includes exposure to air pollution, water pollution, metal pollution, the social environment, life style factors, and others. The totality of these exposures at a young age can affect fetus growth, birth outcomes, child development and child health. 

For example, 3 billion people use solid fuels everyday, exposing women and young children to high levels of indoor air pollution. The World Health Organization estimates that people most likely to breathe poor-quality air live in low- and middle-income countries, where they may also experience hunger, malnutrition, infectious disease, conflict, and natural disasters. In many of these areas, the problem of air pollution is intractable, even as consequences for young children and other vulnerable groups are acknowledged.  

Poor air quality has detrimental effects on fetal and postnatal growth and development. Despite decades of efforts to improve air quality, pregnant women and young children around the world still breathe polluted air, initiating lifelong health problems and causing early death. For many, inadequate air quality is inescapable, with exposure occurring consistently during everyday indoor and outdoor tasks.

Our Working Solutions

Air Quality Ideas Lab.
Air pollution is now the world’s largest single environmental health risk. WHO reports that air pollution exposure caused deaths of 7 million people 2012, or one in eight of total global deaths. Deaths among pregnant women, children and adolescents account for more than one third of the global burden of premature mortality. Children in developing countries are eight times more likely to die before they reach the age of five. Air pollution exposure causes health impacts that significantly differ across different population groups, among which pregnant women and infant might be the most vulnerable population.  
For people residing in or from South Asia, lung function is lowest compared to all other geographic regions of the globe. While the commonly accepted explanation for this health disparity is often attributed to genetics, there are several understudied determinants of lung health such as environmental and occupational exposures. Our scoping review is intended to explore respiratory health in this region to further understand this disparity.  
Abstract: This review focuses on studies among pregnant women that used biomarkers to assess air pollution exposure, or to understand the mechanisms by which it affects perinatal outcomes.
Childhood exposure to metal neurotoxins can result in irreversible neuropsychological impairments. Metal exposures have declined in the general U.S. population and significant progress has been made in the reduction of certain metals in the environment through effective intervention strategies. However, this problem is far from solved.
Published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, October 2018
Electronic waste (e-waste) is a rising global environmental and health inequity issue for a number of reasons. Among them, it generates hundreds of contaminants, such as heavy metals, flame retardants, and other volatile organic compounds, to which both workers and their families are exposed. 



Our Team

Faculty Fellows

John Atkinson.

John Atkinson

Assistant Professor

Department of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering

233 Jarvis Hall

Phone: 716-645-4001


Sharmistha Bagchi-Sen.

Sharmistha Bagchi-Sen


Department of Geography

114 Wilkeson Quad

Phone: 716-645-2722


Baier .

Robert E. Baier


Department of Oral Diagnostic Sciences

355 Squire Hall / 110 Parker Hall

Phone: 716-829-3560


Vanessa Bernabei.

Vanessa Barnabei

Professor and Chair

Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology

219 Bryant Street

Phone: 716-878-7138; Fax: 716-888-3833


Ling Bian.

Ling Bian


Department of Geography

120 Wilkeson Quad

Phone: 716-645-0484


Matthew Bonner.

Matthew Bonner

Associate Professor

Department of Epidemiology and Environmental Health

277 Farber Hall Buffalo

Phone: 716-829-5385; Fax: 716-829-2979



Richard Browne

Associate Professor

Biotechnical and Clinical Laboratory Sciences

38 Cary Hall

Phone: 716-829-5181


Jo Freudenheim .

Jo Freudenheim

UB Distinguished Professor

Department of Social and Preventive Medicine

270 Farber Hall

Phone: 716-829-5375


Frimpong Boamah.

Emmanuel Frimpong Boamah

Assistant Professor

Urban and Regional Planning


Sharon Hewner

Assistant Professor


214 Wende Hall

Phone: 716-829-2092


Bumjoon Kang.

Bumjoon Kang

Assistant Professor

Department of Urban and Regional Planning

Hayes A 22A


Katarzyna, Kordas.

Katarzyna, Kordas

Associate Professor

Department of Epidemiology and Environmental Health

234 Farber Hall

Phone: (716) 829-5340; Fax: (716) 829-2979


Kumar .

Vasanth Kumar

Clinical Associate Professor


219 Bryant Street

Phone: 716-878-7673


Elena Mclean.

Elena McLean

Assistant Professor

Political Science

507 Park Hall

Phone: 716-645-8444


Gene Morse.

Gene Morse

SUNY Distinguished Professor

Department of Pharmacy Practice

701 Ellicott Street

Phone: 716-881-7464


Lina Mu.

Lina Mu

Associate Professor

Department of Epidemiology and Environmental Health

273A Farber Hall

Phone: 716-829-5381


Jayasree, Nair.

Jayasree Nair

Assistant Professor of Pediatrics

Department of Pediatrics

219 Bryant Street Buffalo, NY 14222

Phone: 716-878-7673; Fax: 716-878-7945


Pavani Ram.

Pavani Ram

Co-lead, Community for Global Health Equity

Alexandra Schindel.

Alexandra Schindel

Assistant Professor

Learning and Instruction

564 Baldy Hall

Phone: 716-645-3174



Sanjay Sethi

Professor and Chief, Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine


3495 Bailey Avenue

Phone: 716-862-7875


Laura Smith.

Laura Smith

Assistant Professor

Epidemiology and Environmental Health

Kory Smith.

Kory Smith


Department of Architecture

Phone: 716-575-2874


Helen Wang.

Hua (Helen) Wang

Associate Professor


309 Baldy Hall

Phone: 716-645-1501



Wenyao Xu

Assistant Professor

Computer Science and Engineering

330 Davis Hall

Phone: 716-645-4748


Janet Yang.

Janet Yang

Associate Professor


329 Baldy Hall

Phone: 716-645-1169


Enki Yoo.

Enki Yoo

Associate Professor

Department of Geography

121 Wilkeson Quad

Phone: 716-645-0476


Guan Yu .

Guan Yu

Assistant Professor


710 Kimball Tower

Phone: 716-829-2934



Lili Tian

Professor and Associate Chair; Director of Graduate Studies


717 Kimball Tower

Phone: 716-829-2715


Student Associates

Gauri Desai

PhD Candidate

Epidemiology and Environmental Health