The Competence Centre Epidemiology is divided into the following sections:
The Competence Centre Epidemiology supports the German Social Accident Insurance and its members, and various other bodies, in evaluating the epidemiological evidence of the effects of hazardous substances and working conditions on health. Examples of current research and consulting projects include health effects of shift and night work, occupational exposure to asbestos, welding fumes, metals (such as hexavalent chromium and nickel), dusts (particularly fine silica dust), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and aromatic amines. Furthermore, research into biomarkers for the early detection of cancer and research into subclinical markers, for example in welders, have been major topics of the competence centre’s work. The competence centre supports the IPA by contributing to the Senate Commission for the Investigation of Health Hazards of Chemical Compounds in the Work Area (MAK Commission) of the German Research Foundation (DFG) and the AGS Committee for Hazardous Substances of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (BMAS). Epidemiological evaluation is crucial in the context of the classification of hazardous substances and the determination of occupational exposure limits. The institute’s interdisciplinary expertise ensures a perspective that also considers mechanisms and molecular aspects.
The competence centre’s key research approaches are exposure assessment based on measurement data and molecular epidemiology for evaluation of the carcinogenicity of hazardous substances, particularly where substances exert synergistic effects, and the early detection of disease. These activities are usually conducted in multi-centre projects and in collaboration with experts from other research institutions.
In addition, the Competence Centre Epidemiology supports the IPA’s other competence centres in the planning and performance of studies according to good epidemiological practice. For quality-assured results, a wide range of study instruments including operation manuals with detailed SOPs and quantitative assessment of exposure are required. A central element of the evaluation strategies includes the application of appropriate statistical methods, which take into account possible influencing factors for the interpretation of complex datasets.