Working life exposures may lead to several diseases, such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, cancer, musculoskeletal disorders or mental health disorders. The economic costs of diseases caused by occupational exposure vary between 2 and 6 % of an EU country’s GDP, and the total burden of disease in the population is approximately the same as the burden from urban air pollution or obesity. Reducing the occupational exposure is, thus, a key objective for the governments and the industry. Previous studies have contributed to vital knowledge on the health effects of one exposure, however, there is a lack of studies that take into account the complexity of interrelated exposures and their relation to various health outcomes throughout the lifetime.

In contrast to previous studies, EPHOR applies an exposome approach to address the relationships between occupational exposure and health. By using this approach, EPHOR takes into account all occupational and all non-occupational exposures individuals experience throughout their life and how it affects their health. EPHOR will generate new knowledge on the working life exposome by combining large-scale pooling of existing data (over 40 cohorts and 21 million study subjects) with new data collected in the project (case studies on respiratory health and health effects of night shift work).

EPHOR’s objective is to develop a working life exposome toolbox that can be used for evidence-based and cost-effective prevention by scientists, occupational health practitioners, and policy-makers.

The toolbox will contain:

  1. Innovative methods for collection, storage, and interpretation of working life exposome data
  2. Improved knowledge on how multiple exposures within the working life exposome are related to common diseases, including complex interactions of exposures, biological pathways and early signs of health damages, and vulnerability at different life-stages and groups (female workers, immigrants and precarious workers)
  3. Models for assessing the economic and societal impact of working life exposures.

The goal is that policy-makers, occupational health practitioners and others will use the toolbox to take evidence-based and cost-effective preventive actions to reduce the burden of illnesses caused by occupational exposures.

A reduction in the burden of disease will contribute to:

  • Improved health
  • A reduction in the burden of non-communicable diseases on the health care systems
  • Improved productivity of the workforce
  • Increased competitiveness of European industry

The project consortium consists of 19 partners from 12 different countries. The project is divided into 13 work packages. STAMI is particularly involved in the work packages 2, 3, 5, 7 and 9. Ingrid Sivesind Mehlum leads work package 5. The objective of this package is to provide new evidence of the impact of occupational exposures on the risk of major non-communicable diseases (NCDs), through both systematic and agnostic analyses of occupational exposures and risk factors across the life-course.

The project receives funding from EU Horizon 2020.


To create EPHOR mega cohort, based on large-scale pooling of existing European cohorts with data on occupational exposures that will be registered in an inventory (T5.1 and T5.2).

To evaluate occupational risk factors for the incidence of major specific NCDs over the life course within the EPHOR mega cohort (T5.3).

Two peer-reviewed scientific articles published and four in progress so far, one PhD degree in progress, education of two post-docs, and two MSc thesis.

Project group

Project leader: Johanna Samulin-Erdem.

Shan Narui, Karina Undem, Steen Mollerup, Kristine Haugen Anmarkrud, Ragnhild Strand Østrem, Ingrid Sivesind Mehlum, Hilde Notø, Pål Graff, Mrinal Kumar Das, Jorunn Kirkeleit, Rune Hoff.

PhD-project: Karina Undem – Occupation, work participation and exit from work – A register-based approach.

Additional information about the project