Transport derived Ultrafines and the Brain Effects

TUBE conducts research into the effects of the smallest traffic-related ultrafine- or nanoparticles beyond the lung on brain health.  TUBE has started in May 2019 and will run until 30 April 2023.

Project aims

Air pollutants have been shown to cause a vast amount of different adverse health effects. These effects include impairment of many respiratory (e.g. asthma, COPD) and cardiovascular (ischemic heart disease, infarction, stroke) diseases. However, in recent years, the evidence showing effects beyond the lungs and circulatory system are becoming more evident. Neurological diseases, namely Alzheimer´s disease (AD) has shown to be associated with living near traffic. However, the reason for this has remained unresolved until today. This consortium aims at revealing the mechanisms and exposures both behind cardiorespiratory diseases and beyond the current knowledge in neurological diseases. This consortium includes experts in areas of aerosol technology, emission research, engine and fuel research, human clinical studies, epidemiology, emission inventories, inhalation toxicology, neurotoxicology and disease mechanism studies. This enables research of resolving the effects of nanoparticles from different traffic modes for both air quality and concomitant toxic effect of these air pollutants.

New approach

TUBE will investigate the adverse effects of air pollutants using cell cultures, animal exposures and volunteered human exposures as well as the material from an epidemiological cohort study. These will be compared according to inflammatory, cytotoxic and genotoxic changes and furthermore beyond the current state of the art to neurotoxic and brain health effects. With this approach, TUBE aims for a comprehensive understanding of the adverse effects of nanoparticles from traffic. Currently, only particles above 23nm are measured in regulations, traditional toxicological methods are used in risk assessment and emission inventories and regulations are largely based on old technology engines. TUBE will change this.

RIVM role

RIVM will contribute to:

  • Investigation of the effects/toxicity of ultrafine dust from different sources (road traffic, shipping, aircraft) with in vitro systems;
  • Drawing up recommendations for effective emission reduction policies that also deliver health benefits;
  • Action to implement TUBE's results also in regulatory frameworks.

RIVM colleagues involved: Flemming Cassee and Miriam Gerlofs-Nijland.


This project has received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 814978.