Notice of Special Interest (NOSI): NIEHS Support for Understanding the Impact of Environmental Exposures on Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)

NIEHS is issuing this Notice of Special Interest (NOSI) to address the urgent need for mission-relevant research to understand the impact of environmental exposures on Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) and its causative agent, the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-Cov-2). NIEHS is particularly interested in applications that will provide insight into the role of environmental exposures in pathogenicity, transmission, individual susceptibility, or prevention and intervention strategies.


The rapid global spread of SARS-Cov-2 and the prevalence of COVID-19 disease has raised concern from the public, health professionals, and the research community. Information on the pandemic is changing daily with the latest public health information available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ( and latest research information available from the National Institutes of Health ( There are compelling research questions regarding the role of environmental exposures in the spread of the virus, individual susceptibility to infection, and the severity and progression of disease. Exposure to environmental chemicals or other pollutants can contribute to compromised function of diverse systems (pulmonary, cardiovascular, neuronal) and may impact host immune function. Individuals whose environmental exposures are disproportionately high, reflecting lower socioeconomic status or other health disparities, may have an elevated risk of COVID-19. Studying the role of environmental exposures and susceptibility factors will aid in gaining comprehensive understanding in combating spread as well as severity of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Research Objectives

NIEHS seeks to promote rapid understanding of the potential contributions of current and past exposure to environmental agents that may exacerbate COVID-19 susceptibility, disease severity, and progression. Examples of environmental exposures relevant to the NIEHS mission include: toxic chemicals, air pollutants, second hand tobacco smoke, e-cigarette vapors, metals, and other environmental chemical exposures that may impact health outcomes. In addition, some health outcomes that are linked to environmental exposures (asthma, diabetes, and other pulmonary, cardiovascular, and metabolic diseases) are also risk factors for COVID-19. NIEHS is accepting applications addressing COVID-19 through the administrative supplement, urgent competitive revision, and time-sensitive mechanisms (see Application Information below).

Possible research interests include but are not limited to the following:

  • Examine the role of environmental exposures in impacting individual susceptibility to SARS-Cov-2 infection, or the development and severity of COVID-19 disease.
  • Investigate the role of lifestyle factors (e.g. diet, physical activity) as modifiers of the effects of environmental exposures on the development or severity of COVID-19 disease.
  • Leverage existing biological samples or data from human or animal research studies to test hypotheses examining the impact of environmental exposures on susceptibility to SARS-Cov-2 infection and COVID-19 disease severity or progression (e.g. detection of SARS-Cov-2 infection in an existing environmental epidemiology study).
  • Utilize previously developed research tools or technology platforms that can be applied to understand how environmental exposures impact COVID-19 spread, or disease progression and severity (e.g. personal exposure monitoring, geospatial mapping, risk modeling tools, biomarkers to detect infection).
  • Apply multi-omics approaches that can accelerate identification of biomarkers/metabolic signatures of infection or disease progression using animal models as well as in study participants of existing environmental health studies.
  • Understand the role of exposure-induced perturbations in respiratory microbiome and its contributions to COVID-19 susceptibility and disease progression.
  • Assess the impact of COVID-19-related interventions (including social or physical distancing or public health messaging) on changes in the spread of COVID-19 as well as environmental exposures and related human health outcomes.
  • Determine the potential health effects of increased personal/community use of disinfection products for COVID-19 control.
  • Develop or apply educational, community-based, or other public health strategies that address the intersection between environmental exposures and COVID-19.
  • Identify climate or weather-related factors that influence population susceptibility to SARS-Cov-2 infection and COVID-19 disease.
  • Examine the potential impact of environmental health disparities on the spread of COVID-19 disease.

Pre-award costs may be incurred from January 20, 2020 through the public health emergency period and prior to the date of the federal award.

Funds awarded using appropriations provided by the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2020, will be issued in unique subaccounts in the HHS Payment Management System, and will require separate financial reporting from any other funds awarded.

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