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Research Grants

NIEHS/EPA Children’s Environmental Health and Disease Prevention Research Centers at Dartmouth

Institution: Dartmouth College
Center Director: Margaret Karagas, Ph.D.
Project Period: July 2013 – June 2018

Research Questions

Project 1: Does arsenic exposure affect the immune system of pregnant women and their children?
Project 2: Can exposure to arsenic affect children’s growth and brain development?
Project 3: How does arsenic interfere with development to affect children’s health?

Keywords: Arsenic, Diet, Drinking Water, Epigenetics, Growth, Immune System, Microbiome, Preterm Birth


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 skin lesions, cancer and other health problems. Despite the known health impacts of arsenic, the effect of arsenic exposure on child development 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, inform the public of how to minimize those risks and develop and strengthen ties with local communities to reduce the risk of environmental threats to children's health.

Project Abstract and Annual Reports:  Children's Environmental Health & Disease Prevention Research Center at Dartmouth
Center Website: Children's Environmental Health and Disease Prevention Research Center at Dartmouth Exit

Research Projects

Project 1: Childhood Immune Function and Arsenic Exposure
Early life exposure to arsenic may result in dysregulation of the immune system. If the immune system is not functioning properly, the risk of infections, allergies and asthma may increase. The goal of this project is to assess the relationship of arsenic with maternal and infant immune system function. The focus is to understand whether exposure to arsenic in the first year of life through drinking water and food increases risk of infection during pregnancy or the infant's first year of life.

Project Leaders: Margaret Karagas, Ph.D., Dartmouth College

Project 2: Water and Dietary Arsenic Exposure Related to Early Growth and Neurodevelopment
Diet is a significant source of arsenic for the general U.S. population, particularly children. The goal of this project is to identify foods commonly consumed during the first five years of life that contain arsenic, such as grapes, rice and apples. This study will then determine if there are important growth and developmental consequences of arsenic exposure for young children.

Project Leaders: Kathryn Cottingham, Ph.D., Dartmouth College

Project 3: Placental Biomarkers of Arsenic Exposure and Neurodevelopmental Outcome
There is strong evidence that environmental exposures during pregnancy contribute to health during childhood and continuing into adulthood. Identifying children at high disease risk early in life is critical to improving health outcomes. Biomarkers are important tools for early risk identification. A biomarker is a measurable characteristic or substance whose presence indicates disease or environmental exposure. This project will identify biomarkers in the placenta related to prenatal arsenic exposure and to poor health outcomes in children.

Project Leaders: Carmen Marsit, Ph.D., Dartmouth College