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Your Environment. Your Health.

Dartmouth College

Children's Environmental Health and Disease Prevention Research Center at Dartmouth

Center Overview

Center Location: Hanover, NH

Public Health Impacts: Arsenic naturally occurs in well water in parts of the United States and is harmful to our health. Exposure to arsenic in large or small amounts over time can cause skin lesions, cancer, and other health problems. Researchers at the Dartmouth Children’s Center are conducting research to better understand the effects of arsenic on fetal development and maternal and child health. This research will inform strategies to prevent diseases associated with arsenic exposure.

Primary Environmental Exposures: Arsenic in drinking water and food

Primary Health Outcomes: Childhood immunity, growth, and neurological development

Center Details

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Center Investigators

Principal Investigators: Margaret Karagas, Ph.D.

Pediatric Health Specialist: John Boyer Moeschler, M.D.
Specialties: Pediatrics, children with genetic diseases

Project 1 Leader: Margaret Karagas, Ph.D.

Project 2 Leader: Kathryn L. Cottingham, Ph.D.

Project 3 Leader: Carmen J. Marsit, Ph.D.

Community Outreach & Translation Core Leader: Carolyn J. Murray, M.D.

Faculty Development Investigator: Diane Gilbert-Diamond, Sc.D.

Center Description & Activities

The Children's Environmental Health and Disease Prevention Research Center at Dartmouth studies the effects of arsenic exposure on children's health. Arsenic naturally occurs in well water in parts of the United States and is harmful to our health. It can be present in rocks and soil and exposure can occur through contaminated drinking water, food, or air. Exposure to arsenic in large or small amounts over time can cause skin lesions, cancer, and other health problems. Despite the significant potential public health impact of arsenic, the effect of arsenic exposure on fetal development and maternal and child health is not yet known.

Project 1: Childhood Immune Function and Exposure

Project Leader: Margaret Karagas, Ph.D.

This project builds on an ongoing study of pregnant women in New Hampshire who use private wells for drinking water, a potential source of arsenic exposure in the region. Researchers are evaluating the children of these women for occurrence of infections, allergies, and vaccine response in the first years of life. They are also looking at the effects of arsenic on the developing microbiome – the microorganisms that naturally live on or in the body.

Project 2: Water and Dietary Arsenic Exposure Related to Early Growth and Neurodevelopment

Project Leader: Kathryn L. Cottingham, Ph.D.

Researchers are investigating the contribution of diet to early childhood exposure to arsenic by identifying foods commonly consumed during the first five years of life that also contain arsenic. This work will identify important growth and developmental consequences of arsenic exposure.

Project 3: Placental Biomarkers of Exposure and Outcome

Project Leader: Carmen J. Marsit, Ph.D.

The placenta serves as a key organ for defining the environment encountered by a developing fetus. In this project, researchers are using advanced techniques to examine epigenetic and gene expression alterations in the placenta in relation to exposure and health outcomes. Epigenetic changes modify gene expression without changing the genetic code.

Community Outreach & Translation Core

Core Leader: Carolyn J. Murray, M.D.

The Community Outreach and Translation Core (COTC) continues to engage key stakeholders in collaboratively developing, implementing, and evaluating ways to improve risk communication. The COTC also provides technical support related to the center’s research focus of in utero and early life exposure to arsenic (and other heavy metals) through water and food. Goals include integrating environmental health screening into the clinical environment and creating effective materials and methods for risk communication.