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Introduction

The Institute of Occupational Medicine and Industrial Hygiene was established in 1993. This is the first graduate institute majoring in occupational medicine and industrial hygiene in Taiwan. The mission of the Institute is to advance the health of all people in occupational and community settings in Taiwan, Asia and around the world through teaching, research and services in occupational and environmental health. Faculty members in the institute investigate causes, risks, mechanisms, biomarkers, and prevention measures of environmentally and occupationally related health issues, provide advanced education programs of occupational health with master and doctoral degrees, and provide scientifically based public health services to the public, governments, industries, and the labors. Research approaches range from the molecular to the epidemiologic, in physical scales of nano- to macro-, and by multiple disciplines of physical, chemical, biological, sociobehavioralsciences and ergonomics. In most occasions, we have tried to tackle important public health problems that require integrated contributions of many advanced specialties.
 
This institute collaborates closely with the College of Medicine and the National Taiwan University Hospital, especially the Department of Environmental and Occupational Medicine, Internal Medicine, Dermatology, and Toxicology, for the promotion of environmental and Occupational Health domestically and internationally.

The institute’s faculty, research staff, and students reflect the multidisciplinary nature of the field and include chemists, engineers, epidemiologists, ergonomics, physicians, molecular biologists, exposure assessors, and risk assessors.
Teaching and research activities of the department are carried out through the following concentrations: 1) Environmental and occupational medicine, 2) Occupational hygiene, 3) Environmental and occupational epidemiology, 4) Environmental toxicology, 5) Aerosol technology, 6) Human factors (Ergonomics) , 7) Exposure assessment, and 8) Risk assessment, 9) Ventilation technology 

1) Environmental and occupational medicine

The curriculum design aims to train students with occupational medicine expertise to help give them the ability to engage in the recognition, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of occupational diseases and injuries. The students will pursue the capability of developing strategies for treating and preventing occupational diseases and injuries. Research topics include: skin diseases, respiratory and cardiovascular diseases (in automotive manufacturing, chemical plants, waste treatment, and semiconductors) caused by occupational exposure; reproductive hazards and chronic diseases, etc. caused by hazardous exposure to heavy metals (arsenic), persistent organic compounds, biological agents, and chemistry; the health effects and hazards caused by environmental exposure, including respiratory and cardiovascular disorders, hazards to the endocrine and reproductive system, and the impacts on the second generation.

 2) Occupational hygiene

The curriculum design aims to train students with the expertise of occupational safety and hygiene to give them the ability to engage in assessment and prevention of risk factors related to occupational diseases and injuries. The research scopes of the faculty stretch over a wide range of areas of occupational hygiene. The aims are to anticipate, recognize, evaluate, and control work-related hazards. Research topics include investigating physical, chemical, and biological exposure factors in work places. Intervention studies are conducted through implementation of administrative controls, engineering controls, and use of personal protective equipments. In response to the development of the times, researches related to contemporary issues in workplace and environmental exposures, such as nanotechnology, electromagnetic fields, and emerging chemicals, are also carried out.

3) Environmental and occupational epidemiology

Occupational and environmental epidemiological research focuses on identifying and measuring the physical, chemical, biological, and psychological factors that cause human diseases and then provide scientific evidences as fundamental references for the establishment of domestic occupational and environmental health policies. Path curriculum design synthesizes epidemiological methods, advanced statistical methods, exposure assessment and modeling, and environmental health risk analysis.
The studies have been initiated -- liver disease caused by vinyl chloride, the damage caused by lead exposure on human intellectual development and reproductive harm, the cardiovascular effects from work stress and shift work, the effects of air pollutants on respiratory and cardiovascular health, and the finding of biological markers of environmental exposures and the susceptible genotype of environmental diseases. In the series of studies, we cover cancers, cardiovascular, respiratory, neurological, hepatic, urinary, reproductive and dermatological diseases, heavy metals, organic solvents, chemical and semiconductor factories, indoor and outdoor air pollution, and underground water contamination. The faculty members in this institute also stand in the front of developing biological, molecular, and genetic markers which have been used in the epidemiological research.
Recently we have been conducting Taiwan birth cohort studies to investigate prenatal and postnatal environmental factors on infant and early childhood health. Through these prospective birth cohorts, the main health outcomes focused on child growth and development, atopic diseases, and neurocognitive and language development. We investigated the main prenatal and postnatal factors including infection, herb use in pregnancy, breastfeeding, allergens and other pollutants such as environmental tobacco smoke, heavy metals, non-persistent pesticides and perfluoroalkyl chemicals, and psychosocial stress under the consideration of interaction of the environment and genes.


4) Environmental toxicology

Environmental toxicology uses laboratory methods to explore the toxicity of environmental and occupational hazards. It mainly uses animal or cell experiments to verify the relationship of the cause and effect found in epidemiology and further explores toxicological mechanisms. For example, epidemiological studies have found that atmospheric particles are associated with heart and lung disease, so we can collect atmospheric particles to carry out cell experiments to explore whether atmospheric particles cause cell inflammation or other toxicity and also explore which composition of atmospheric particles have a relationship with the toxicity. At the same time, we can also carry out animal experiments to use intra-tracheal instillation or breathing exposure methods to explore the cardiopulmonary toxicological effects in animals. As for new materials, such as nano-materials, there is no report of human health hazards yet, so we can make use of cell and animal experiments to discover the potential toxicity of nano-materials to carry out health risk assessment and management. In addition, the development of biomarkers can be used in molecular epidemiological studies and exposure and risk assessment, such as specific DNA adducts and oxidative stress marker of 8-hydroxydeoxyguanosine (8-OhdG). 

5) Aerosol technology

Aerosol technology deals with the properties, behavior, measurement and control of airborne particles found in the workplace environment. The teachers and researchers apply aerosol physics and chemistry to evaluate hazards, or to control and/or eliminate aerosols from release into the air. We also conduct epidemiology studies to identify causal agents linked to specific acute or chronic health outcomes. The aerosol laboratory is equipped with a comprehensive range of state-of-the-art aerosol instrumentation and capable of generating, measuring, and collecting particles from 2 nm to larger than 10 μm.. The activities of the working group on aerosol technology cover the fields of occupational hygiene, inhalation toxicology, and emission control technology as well as in aerosol therapy. A major area of research are health-related aspects of airborne particles such as evaluation and development of filtration media and aerosol size selective samplers, improvement of indoor air pollution control devices, development of rapid measuring systems for lung deposition studies and engine exhaust PM2.5 measurement, and evaluation the performance of medical nebulizers. In addition, we do basic research in the fields of aerosol physics and technology.

6) Human factors (Ergonomics)

In recent years, in light of occupational hazard problems, human factors have gradually presented its importance in industrial hygiene and becomes the teaching and research focus of this institute. The field of human factors in this institute emphasizes on understanding the features and restrictions of the man-machine interface from physical, cognitive, and organizational aspects, and preventing accidental injuries and chronic diseases by improving the working environment. Meanwhile, in addition to academic researches, we are also involved in various studies related to human factors related improvement in the workplace, including musculoskeletal diseases in the workplace, cardiovascular diseases caused by shift work, psychological pressure at work, etc. Additionally, we are also engaged in the methodological development for physical work loading measurement, such as real-time computer work activity monitoring system. In the aspect of teaching, in addition to the relevant human factors courses in safety and health invested by our teachers, we also invite internationally esteemed scholars and experts to offer short courses at our institute in order to enhance mutual understanding and to keep abreast of the latest international developments in human factors.

7) Exposure assessment

Exposure assessment mainly examines the distribution and determinants of factors affecting human health (such as physical, chemical, biological, and psychosocial factors). It explores the transport mechanism, exposure route, and exposure pathway and assesses the exposure duration, frequency and concentrations. The media studied in our institute range from air, water, food, and biological samples. Our main assessment tools include, but not limited to, questionnaires, personal monitoring, environmental monitoring, biological detection, and model simulation. The assessment results can be applied to risk assessment and management, environmental epidemiology, and status and trend analysis.

8) Risk assessment

Health risk assessment (HRA) has been well accepted by international community to serve as a critically scientific reference for decision-making. In Taiwan, health-related policy has gradually been made by referring to HRA, particularly policies related to food safety and environmental impact assessment. In order to train professional risk assessors who can objectively integrate scientific information and evidences into risk assessment, OMIH has established the first curriculum of risk analysis in Asia and prepares talent students to pursue the professional career in health risk assessment. The main core courses offered are biostatistics, environmental epidemiology (epidemiology and methodology), environmental toxicology, health risk assessment, and health risk assessment practices, risk communication and management, etc. Currently, the major ongoing researches of our faculty members include the development of new method for dose-response relationship assessment -- how to overcome the uncertainty of epidemiological data in exposure assessment, the establishment of new methods for probabilistic risk assessment, food safety assessment and planning a world-class center for food safety assessment, construction of a verifiable multi-media model for aggregate and/or cumulative exposure assessment, and PM2.5 risk assessment. Our faculty members are also engaged in risk assessment and risk perception of emerging technology, such as the impact of electromagnetic waves and nano-technology on human health, and some are engaged in comparing risk analysis and cost-benefit analysis and many other process-oriented researches. These studies are quite competitive at the international level.

9) Ventilation technology

Ventilation technology is a branch of fluid dynamics. It is the engineering technology of fluid dynamics to exhaust the harmful factors that affect human health (such as chemical, physical, and biological and hazards) after the chemical, physical and biological exposure and risk assessment. The applications of ventilation technology are wide, for example, the mass transport model of water and airflow in environments, the hazard exposure in workplaces, the ventilation of data centers, the heat transfer of tablet PC, and the flow model of blood in human blood vessels. In the future, ventilation technology will be widely used to solve the health problems caused by occupational and environmental hazards.