The New Hampshire Birth Cohort Study (NHBCS) is a component of the Dartmouth Toxic Metals Research Program, focusing on the health impacts of toxic metal exposure in the United States. Environmental contaminants can end up in the food and water supply and NHBCS aims to understand whether certain contaminants commonly found in the environment, such as arsenic and mercury, adversely affect the health of pregnant women or their offspring during this vulnerable period of development. The study seeks to identify individual characteristics that influence one's susceptibility to the effects of metals and biologic markers of response to environmental agents that could serve as early signals of health conditions that manifest later in life. This study will help scientists gain a better understanding of what environmental factors are harmful to pregnant women and their offspring, to help ensure healthy pregnancies for generations to come.
Why New Hampshire?
New Hampshire provides an excellent opportunity to assemble a birth cohort where both the effects of arsenic in drinking water, and mercury in seafood, can be assessed. While arsenic is an established carcinogen, the health effects of low-level environmental exposure are largely unknown. Likewise, the evidence surrounding the effects of mercury on birth outcomes is minimal and much of the data pertain to unique study populations which may not be generalizable to women in the United States. In the mostly rural state of New Hampshire, residents rely on unregulated private wells for their drinking source where naturally occurring levels of arsenic in the groundwater are high. Similarly, New England has the highest atmospheric levels of mercury in the country, where it has contaminated the pristine lakes and accumulated in local fish populations. Given these factors, it is important to understand how arsenic and mercury exposure might affect a developing fetus.
For more information please visit the Dartmouth Toxic Metals Research Program website