Karin Sørig Hougaard


Karin Sørig Hougaard, Senior Researcher, Adjungated Assistant Professor (Ph.D, MSc, BM), Danish Nanosafety Centre at the National Research Centre for the Working Environment, Copenhagen, Denmark. ksh@nrcwe.dk

Research interests

For the last 20 years I have worked in occupational toxicology, mainly within developmental and reproductive effects of workplace exposures including particles, organic solvents, endocrine disrupting chemicals, stress, noise and shiftwork, and as well as the interaction of influences, e.g. between chemicals and stress, and pre- and postnatal exposures, using animal models as well as register and cohort data. For the last 10 years I have been much involved in assessment of developmental exposure to diesel exhaust and engineered nanoparticles relative to offspring effects in the central nervous system, male and female fertility, immune function, transplacental genotoxicity and toxicogenomics, with collegaues at the NRCWE and at collaborating institutions.

Keynote – Developmental toxicity of nanomaterials

My keynote speech focuses on maternal airway exposure to nanosized particles in pregnancy and the potential for elicitation of adverse effects in her offspring. Results from several studies support the existence of such an association, and that maternal particle exposure may induce a broad range of physiological changes in the offspring, ultimately manifesting as altered function of the central nervous, male reproductive, and immune systems, among others. Several mechanisms may be involved, direct and well as indirect. At present, the available data are mainly hypothesis generating, and I strongly believe that a more directed action is called for, and that future research and risk assessment would benefit from focusing on:

  • Identification of sensitive organ systems in the offspring – also those not included in official guidelines for developmental toxicity testing of chemicals.
  • Adaptation of (existing) guidelines to accommodate the testing of particles
  • The grouping of particle toxicity relative to developmental effects – does a “particle pattern” exist?