The research activity of DSET is included in the IRSET (Institute of Health Research Work Environment), led by Bernard Jégou, which includes:

  • Researchers from DSET and LERES,
  • Researchers from Rennes 1 University,
  • Researchers from Rennes 2 University.

IRSET brings together more than 160 staff, half of which are professors or researchers, and also collaboration with Rennes and Pointe-à-Pître university hospitals. IRSET is a platform for research, higher education, continuous education, communication towards the greater public, expertise and the production of economic value.

The research undertaken by the environmental and  occupational health department can be divided into 2 main topics:

  1. Contribution of exposure to environmental pollution and nuisances to social health inequalities,
  2. Exposure assessment, a research domain in close connection with the LERES that develops R&D in metrology and environmental quality.

Several research projects explore, from complementary angles involving various partners, the exposure of people – children in particular – to water chlorination by-products in tap water and swimming pools and the associated risks, as well as exposure to metals and substances given off in the home (including dust deposits).

Current research

1. Contribution of environmental exposure to social health inequalities (Department of environmental and occupational health, Department of nursing and paramedical sciences).

This programme is designed to study the contribution made by exposure to environmental nuisances and hazards to social health inequalities in France. It is funded by funds from ANR, IRESP, EHESP, regional authorities and the ministry of health, with a doctoral grant from ADEME.

During a pilot phase that started at the end of 2008, particular attention is paid to the exposure to air pollution and noise and to proximity to sources of industrial pollution in 4 French metropolitan areas: Lille, Paris, Lyon and Marseille.

The programme had 3 successive, complementary steps:

  • Describe the socio-economic and local inequalities in environmental exposure to pollution and the cumulative effect of different types of pollution.
  • Describe the social inequalities in spatial distribution of health events.
  • Test whether the relationships between health events and a combination of different types of environmental exposures, spread over a small area, differ according to the socio-economic status.

Contact : Séverine Deguen (Biostat and Information Sciences Department, DSIB)

2. Exposure assessment: exposure in the indoor environment (DSET (Department of environmental and occupational health) / LERES (Laboratory for study and research into the environment and health)

PLOMB-HABITAT: Environmental determinants of lead exposure

Background: Lead exposures still threaten public health because of no toxicity threshold. Exposure assessment needs to be updated notably to identify environmental risks factors and set effective policy measures.

Methods: nested in “Saturnin”, Plomb-Habitat includes home surveys with environmental sampling and measurements (water, settled dust, soil, etc.) carried out in a representative sample of 500 children. Identification of environmental determinants of exposure relies on i) lead isotopic fingerprint comparison (Glorennec 2010, Oulhote 2011) between blood and home tap water, soil, dust, paint, etc., and ii) statistical analysis of correlations between lead concentration in blood and environmental samples.


  • Sources of lead exposure in French children by lead isotope analysis (Oulhote 2011)
  • Lead Contamination in French Children’s Homes and Environment (Lucas 2012)
  • Implications of different residential lead standards on children’s BLL (Oulhote 2013)

Partners: CSTB, InVS, AP-HP

Funding: Anses, Ministry of health, Ministry of Environment

Contacts : Barbara Le Bot et Philippe Glorennec

EXPO-MÉTAUX : Évaluation des expositions aux métaux chez l’enfant

Background: Exposure to metals is often assessed by single exposure pathways. Objective is to assess total exposure of children to harmful metals.

Methods: home (N=500) samples of water, soils and dust from “Plomb habitat” have also been tested (Le Bot 2010) for other metals than lead.


  • French children’s exposure to metals via ingestion of indoor dust, outdoor playground dust and soil: contamination data (Glorennec 2012)
  • Determinants of soils and dust metal contamination (work in progress)
  • French Children exposure to metals by tap water (work in progress)
  • French Children integrated exposure to metals (to come)

Partners: CSTB, Anses.
Funding: French ministries of Health and Environment

Contacts : Barbara Le Bot et Philippe Glorennec

ECOS-HABITAT : Expositions cumulées aux composés organiques semi-volatils dans l’habitat : risques pour le développement de l’enfant

Background: SemiVolatile Organic Compounds (SVOCs) are ubiquitous indoors (Read the article on PubMed “Organic contamination of settled house dust, a review for exposure assessment purposes“) and lead to exposure to potential harmful agents for reproduction and development, especially for children (hand-to-mouth contact).

Methods: SVOCs have been health ranked and dedicated multiresidue analytical methods have been developed. Representative samples of French housings have been tested for SVOCs in air and settled dust for exposure assessment. Mixture specific toxicity reference values will be developed for cumulative health risk assessment.


  • Health ranking of SVOCs (Bonvallot 2010)
  • Dust samples conservation tests (to be published)
  • PM analytical method (Mercier 2012)
  • Dust analytical method (to be published)
  • First contamination assessment in 30 homes (ECOS’PER to be published) and 30 schools (ECOS-ECOLES to be published)
  • Dust SVOCs contamination in French children’s homes (Statistical analysis in progress)
  • Air SVOCs contamination in French children’s homes (Chemical analysis in progress)
  • Toxicity reference values for mixture constructing (ECOS TOX, in progress)
  • Cumulative Health risk assessment (scheduled  in 2015)


Funding: Ademe (Primequal), Anses, OQAI, PNRPE, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Environment (Primequal).

Contacts : Barbara Le Bot, Nathalie Bonvallot, Olivier Blanchard, Kévin Fournier, Fabien Mercier et Philippe Glorennec

In this context, another research project is in process: ECOS-TOX: Complex exposures to semi-volatile organic compounds in house: Derivation of cumulative toxicity reference values (TRVs)Download the project description (pdf, 33 kb).

Asthm’Child: Cumulative exposure to indoor environment pollutants likely to lead to children’s chronic respiratory disorders

Funding: ADEME, through the call for projects of the National Research Programme in Environmental and Occupational Health launched by ANSES (French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety).

Project partners: Unité Inserm U1085 (IRSET Team 9), EPAR Team in UMR S707-UPMC and LERES.

The main objectives of the Asthm’child project are:

  • to assess the cumulative exposure to indoor environment pollutants likely to lead to children’s chronic respiratory disorders;
  • to identify the main sources and determinants of such exposures in dwellings;
  • to build a predictive model based on the levels of concentration of pollutants and the features of dwellings.

As far as methodology is concerned, this project is integrated in the Pelagie cohort in Brittany, which includes 3500 women (2002-2005).

The project is also original because it will lead to better knowledge of cumulative exposure (both chemical and biological) and to the building of a predictive model, which will be applied to the whole cohort on the basis of a retrospective questionnaire in the framework of a future nested control-case study.

Contact: Olivier Blanchard

EMOLEP : Molecular epidemiology and spatial dynamic model of Legionella pneumophila populations in the environment

Background : Legionellae are the causative agent of a pneumonia called legionellosis with 10% mortality rate. These bacteria are found in aequous environments  but we lack some knowledge about emergency conditions of pathogens stains.

Methods: a study by typing more than 1 200 strains of Legionella pneumophila

and linking of environmental conditions of isolation of the strains will allow a better understanding of evolution of Legionella  in water systems.


Molecular typing of the strains – Read the article

Environmental factors of strain emergence (ongoing)

Partners: CNR Légionelles, Institut de Génétique et Microbiologie Orsay, IRD Montpellier

Founding: ANSES

Contact: Pierre Le Cann

Mould and respiratory health


More and more epidemiologic studies point out the relation between excessive humidity in dwelling , development of mould and respiratory disease. However scientists did not  gain a consensus to  measure  mould exposition in indoor environment.

Methods: In laboratory, tools developed in US for sampling and analysis of mould by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have been evaluated and new methods are under development.

Results :

Partners: CHU Rennes, EPA, Cincinatti University

Funding: EHESP

Contact: Pierre Le Cann


COSRED : Etude de la relation entre expositions professionnelles aux COsmétiques, travail en milieu de Soins, anomalies de la REproduction et du Développement

Background: Several studies have suggested inconsistently a relation between occupational exposure to cosmetic and working in health care sector and the occurrence of reproductive or developmental anomalies. The main limitations of the existing studies are the retrospective nature of the data analyzed and the lack of biomarkers to determine the exposure.
Methods: Data from four French cohorts (ELFE EPIPAGE 2, EDEN, PELAGIE) will be pooled for a total of about 30 000 births. Occupational exposures will be defined by expert assessment. In addition for two cohorts measure of Glycol ethers metabolites in urine collected during pregnancy will be available. The relation with these occupational exposures and several anomalies will be studied : time to pregnancy (TTP), congenital malformations,  intrauterine growth retardation, prematurity and postnatal growth. For the study of each anomaly, it will conduct an analysis for each cohort and a meta-analysis.

Partners: INSERM U1085, Inserm U823, Inserm U953, INSERM U1018, INRS, Unité Mixte INED INSERM ELFE.

Funding: ANSM

Contact : Ronan Garlantezec

RISKMANCHE : Shellfisheries and food safety: what risk perception and communication in Small and Great Britain ?

Improve the risk analysis of shellfisheries and food safety : a cross-border region french-britain scientific program.

RiskManche is an European scientific research project. The main strategic objective is to further integrate cross-border research and practice in the field of water-related disease control in the France (Channel)-England Region.

In the RiskManche project, with support of the inter-regional European program INTER-REG IV A, the EHESP, High School of Public Health in Rennes (France), is member of a research consortium for the risk analysis about shellfisheries and food safety.

The partnership between both sides of the channel is a major strength of the project RiskManche: on the French coast, with IFREMER based in Brest, the geosciences institute of CNRS in Caen and Rennes, and on the British side the University of Brighton, the UK Environment Agency, the scientific research of shellfisheries and aquaculture science in Weymouth (CEFAS).

The cross-border consortium aims to improve the knowledge on the risk induced by the presence of hazards in rivers, marine waters and shellfish in the Region through the identification and enumeration of viruses, bacteria in shellfishes (Salmonella, Listeria, Campylobacter, Vibrio, enteric viruses). One of the main objective of the project is to study the influence of agricultural, urban and industrial activities on the microbial and chemical contamination of shellfish and to find indicators to identify the source of pollution. As it is yet very difficult to assess a level of sanitary risk due to consumption of shellfisheries, a large part of control measures lies in local dialogue for risk management with all stakeholders. That is the reason why the department of Environmental and Occupational Health in EHESP, in collaboration with the University of Brighton, will lead a structured cross-border risk perception analyze through several stakeholders (from producers to the consumers) and a communication process (seminars and conferences). In the social, cultural, political context of both those regions, health risk for the local population is known and established, but cannot be quantified. The research of the EHESP team consists to analyze all risk perception variants by stakeholders in different contexts, uses and risk management local practices and options. Public seminars for the restitution of those analyzes will be organized with the aim to promote a collective and cooperative approach and process of local risk management on both sides of the channel.

Contact: Cyrille Harpet and Michèle Legeas

Modified on 13 March 2017