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.

Portrait of Gauri Desai.

Meet Gauri Desai: Recent Doctoral Graduate and CGHE Alumna who recently won the Saxon Graham Dissertation Award

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Our Team

Faculty Fellows

Katarzyna, Kordas

Co-Director, Community of Excellence in Global Health Equity; Co-Lead, Early Life Exposome Team; Associate Professor

Department of Epidemiology and Environmental Health

234 Farber Hall

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


Laura Smith

Co-Lead Early Life Exposome Team; Assistant Professor

Epidemiology and Environmental Health and Community for Global Health Equity

Nirupam Aich

Project Lead, E-waste Recycling; Assistant Professor

Department of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering

232 Jarvis Hall

Phone: 716-645-0977


John Atkinson

Associate Professor

Department of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering

233 Jarvis Hall

Phone: 716-645-4001


Sharmistha Bagchi-Sen


Department of Geography

114 Wilkeson Quad

Phone: 716-645-2722


Vanessa Barnabei


Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology

219 Bryant Street

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


Ling Bian


Department of Geography

120 Wilkeson Quad

Phone: 716-645-0484


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


Gauri Desai

Clinical Assistant Professor

School of Public Health and Health Professions

Current interests: B-vitamins and arsenic methylation; effects of low-level arsenic exposure on child cognition and learning.


Jo Freudenheim

UB Distinguished Professor

Department of Epidemiology and Environmental Health

270 Farber Hall

Phone: 716-829-5375


Emmanuel Frimpong Boamah

Co-lead, Food Equity Team; Assistant Professor

Urban and Regional Planning and Community for Global Health Equity

Sharon Hewner

Assistant Professor


214 Wende Hall

Phone: 716-829-2092


Vasanth Kumar

Clinical Associate Professor


219 Bryant Street

Phone: 716-878-7673


Elena McLean

Project Lead, Multiscalar Analysis of Fuel Transitions; Associate Professor

Political Science

507 Park Hall

Phone: 716-645-8444


Gene Morse

SUNY Distinguished Professor

Department of Pharmacy Practice

701 Ellicott Street

Phone: 716-881-7464


Lina Mu

Project Lead, Air Pollution Exposure During Pregnancy; Associate Professor; Director, Office of Global Health Initiatives

Department of Epidemiology and Environmental Health

273A Farber Hall

Phone: 716-829-5381


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

Founding Co-lead, Community for Global Health Equity

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


Hua (Helen) Wang

Associate Professor


309 Baldy Hall

Phone: 716-645-1501


Wenyao Xu

Associate Professor

Computer Science and Engineering

330 Davis Hall

Phone: 716-645-4748


Janet Yang

Associate Professor


329 Baldy Hall

Phone: 716-645-1169


Enki Yoo

Associate Professor

Department of Geography

121 Wilkeson Quad

Phone: 716-645-0476


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

Seth Frndak.

Seth Frndak

PhD Candidate

Epidemiology and Environmental Health and Community for Global Health


Marissa Kawyn.

Marissa Kawyn

UB Alumna; Former Graduate Assistant

Epidemiology and Environmental Health and Community for Global Health

Our work is done in collaboration with many talented community partners. We list these partners on the affiliated project pages.