Arsenic Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Exposure Assessment of Metals

Project Leader:
Margaret R. Karagas, Ph.D.
Professor and Head, Section of Biostatistics and Epidemiology, Department of Community and Family Medicine
Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth
Co-Director, Epidemiology & Chemoprevention
Norris Cotton Cancer Center
Director, Formative Children's Environmental Health and Disease Prevention Research Center

Project Co-Leaders: Karl Kelsey, Ph.D. (Brown University), Susan A. Korrick, Ph.D. (Harvard University), Judith Rees, Ph.D.

This project is an integral component of the Dartmouth Toxic Metals Superfund Research Program (SRP), focusing on the environmental and health impact of toxic metal exposure in the US. The project builds on 13 years of experience designing and testing methods of measuring environmentally relevant levels of exposure and factors that influence individual susceptibility to metal-related health effects. Arsenic is the top contaminant on the ATSDR 2011 Substance Priority List and is deemed of great concern for human health.

In the State of New Hampshire, nearly 50% of the population relies on private, unregulated water systems and over 10% of these contain arsenic above the current MCL of 10 ug/L (or parts per billion). In light of the importance of arsenic in drinking water as a public health issue in the state of New Hampshire, our project has focused on conducting studies to measure clinical outcomes related to arsenic and other metals, and on determining possible modifiers of these associations (e.g., through genetic factors or multiple exposures).

Our recent initiative is The New Hampshire Birth Cohort Study, a study of pregnant women who use private wells. We will explore whether prenatal exposure to arsenic is associated with birth outcomes (e.g., birth weight, fetal growth restriction and gestational age) in the New Hampshire population. Using state-of-the-art techniques, we are evaluating the utility of multiple measures of metal exposure (i.e., in drinking water, urine and toenails) within mothers and in mother-infant pairs. Further, we are investigating the hypothesis that methylmercury intake alone or in combination with other factors influences fetal growth and gestational age. As part of our research efforts, we are conducting a collaborative analysis with the NIEHS-funded New Bedford Birth Cohort Study (adjacent to a Superfund Site).

To our knowledge, the study proposed will represent one of the first molecular epidemiologic investigations of early life exposure to arsenic and mercury in a general population of the US. Our goal is to inform risk assessment and management of toxic metal exposure in the US, and aid early intervention strategies to prevent adverse health effects from these exposures.

For related information visit the Children's Environmental Health and Disease Prevention Center website

Recent Publications

Margaret Karagas Pubmed

Judy Rees Pubmed

Susan Korrick Pubmed

Karl Kelsey Pubmed

Emily Baker Pubmed

Rebecca Troisi Pubmed