Antonio J. Signes-Pastor, Ph.D.
Department of Epidemiology
Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth College
One Medical Center Drive
7927 Rubin Building Lebanon, NH 03756
Areas of Expertise: Epidemiology, food security, and trace elements analysis
Background: I have been a postdoctoral research associate at the Department of Epidemiology - Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth since October 2016 under the supervision of Prof. Margaret Karagas with the main aim of deepening my knowledge in epidemiology. Before that, I was a postdoc at Queen's University Belfast, Northern Ireland, responsible for the RICENIC project, which was funded by the prestigious Individual Fellowships - Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions. Risk assessment of arsenic in rice-based infant's products and strategies to reduce exposure were the main objectives of RICENIC. My Ph.D project aimed to assess arsenic exposure from water and food in populations living in rural areas of West Bengal, India, where drinking water is naturally highly contaminated with arsenic.
Research: Early-life exposure to environmental toxicants, particularly arsenic - a well known toxic element, and their potential adverse health impact on infants and young children are the core of my current research interest. I am involved with the New Hampshire Birth Cohort Study (NHBCS) that aims to investigate how various factors such as contaminants in the environment affect the health of pregnant women and their children. In addition, I am also collaborating with other mother-child cohort studies in Europe. We have found strong association between rice and rice-based product consumption and infants and young children' urinary arsenic, a reliable biomarker of all exposure routes. Rice-based products are widely used during weaning to solid food; however, rice accumulates higher concentrations of arsenic compared to other cereals. Indeed, our research has recently found that a high percentage of the rice-based product samples analyzed specifically marketed for infants and young children contained higher inorganic arsenic, the most toxic chemical form of arsenic, than 0.1 mg/kg, which is the action level, or limit, established by the USFDA and the standard set by law in the EU to protect the most vulnerable subpopulations. There is an urgent need for low-arsenic rice, especially that destined for the production of food for infants and young children, and thus we have developed a new way to maximize the removal of inorganic arsenic in rice and rice-bran, a by-product of milling rice generally used to fortify baby and toddler food, based on the continuous percolating near boiling water approach.