NIEHS/EPA CEHCs: Children's Environmental Health and Disease Prevention Center - Dartmouth College
Arsenic is an element which is naturally occurring in well water in parts of the U.S. and is toxic to human health. Deposits of arsenic can be present in rocks and soil, and people can ingest or inhale it through contaminated drinking water, food or air. Exposure to arsenic either in large amounts or in small amounts over time can cause diseases such as skin lesions, cancer and other health problems. Yet despite the significance of the potential public health impact of arsenic, the effect of arsenic exposure on fetal development and maternal and child health is not yet known. The overall goals of this Center are to better understand the impact of arsenic in drinking water and food on children's health, to inform the public of how to minimize those risks, and to develop and strengthen ties with local communities to reduce the risk of environmental threats to children's health.
Center Website: Children's Environmental Health and Disease Prevention Center Exit
- Research Projects
Project 1: Arsenic and Maternal Infant Immune Function
The goal of this project is to assess the relationship of naturally occurring levels of arsenic in water and food with maternal and infant immune system function. The study is being conducted as part of an ongoing study of 1,000 women and infants in New Hampshire who get their drinking water from private wells which are a potential source of arsenic exposure in this region. The focus of this project is to understand whether exposure to arsenic in the first year of life via drinking water and food increases risk of infection during pregnancy or the infant's first year of life. This project will also assess how individual variation in arsenic metabolism and “lifestyle” factors such as maternal smoking alters the effects of arsenic exposure in children.
Project 2: Food Borne Exposure to Arsenic During the First Year of Life
Building on a study of women and children enrolled as part of Dartmouth’s Superfund Program, this project is exploring dietary sources of arsenic exposure in infants through the first year of life. The goal is to identify the contribution of diet to both arsenic exposure and the ability to reduce arsenic toxicity through dietary changes such as folate, iron, and vitamin B. The project focuses on exposure through breast milk and infant formula and is also collecting data on the period when infants transition to solid foods, such as rice cereals which may contain low levels of arsenic.
Project 3: An Integrated Geospatial and Epidemiological Study of Associations Between Birth Defects and Arsenic Exposure in New England
Previous studies have suggested a link between arsenic exposure during pregnancy and birth defects, the onset of asthma and other respiratory illnesses. This project is a integrating information on where people live and their health to characterize the spatial distribution of birth defects in New England in relation to environmental exposure to arsenic. This data will be used to model the process by which arsenic may disrupt lung development.
Project 4: Determining How Arsenic Modulates Hedgehog Signaling During Development
This project aims to determine the mechanism by which arsenic may increase the risk for birth defects by interfering with hedgehog signaling, a process critical to human development in the womb. Investigators seek to develop the reagents necessary to analyze cell samples from mothers and infants for markers of hedgehog signaling activity. In future work, such reagents could be used to link arsenic exposure to birth defects.
Primary Environmental Exposures: Arsenic in well water and food
Primary Health Outcomes: Birth defects, risk of infection