Arsenic Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Exposure Assessment of Metals

Project Leader:
Margaret R. Karagas, Ph.D.
James W. Squires Professor and Chair
Department of Epidemiology
Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth

Project Co-Leaders:
Emily R. Baker, M.D.
Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology
Professor of Radiology
Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth

Megan Romano, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Epidemiology
Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth

Lisa Chasan-Taber, MPH, ScD (UMass Amherst)
Susan Korrick Ph.D. (Harvard University)
Yu Chen Ph.D. (New York University)

This project is a biomedical project and 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 nearly 20 years of experience designing and testing biomarkers of environmentally relevant levels of exposure, studying their health impacts, and determining possible modifiers of these associations (e.g., through genetic factors or multiple exposures). Arsenic is the top contaminant on the ATSDR 2019 Substance Priority List and is deemed of great concern for human health.

In the State of New Hampshire, about 46% of the population relies on private, unregulated water systems and 20% of these may contain arsenic above the current MCL of 10µg/L (or parts per billion). Our current initiative, the New Hampshire Birth Cohort Study is a study of pregnant women who use private wells. Emerging data indicate that exposure to relatively low levels of arsenic and other contaminants during pregnancy may adversely affect both the mother and child. The current study focuses on the effects of environmental exposures during pregnancy on two major indicators of chronic illnesses prevalent in the US population – blood pressure (linked to cardiovascular disease) and glucose metabolism (linked to diabetes and a risk factor for cardiovascular disease). The current focus on maternal outcomes builds on our previous work on environmental contaminant exposures during pregnancy on birth outcomes such as birth weight, fetal growth restriction and gestational age) and expands our enrollment of pregnant women to approximately 2,000 mother-infant pairs.

To our knowledge, the New Hampshire Birth Cohort Study represents one of the only molecular epidemiologic investigations of early life exposure to arsenic and other contaminants in mothers and children in the US. Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide, and risk for developing cardiovascular disease begins in early life. Our goal is to inform risk assessment and management of Superfund-relevant environmental containment exposures 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 Research Center


Margaret Karagas Pubmed

Emily Baker Pubmed

Megan Romano Pubmed