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Dartmouth receives $2 million grant for children's health research center

Dartmouth recently received a $2 million pilot grant to fund the new Children's Environmental Health and Disease Prevention Center at Dartmouth. The grant is jointly funded by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS). Dartmouth's is one of six emerging centers nationally that are undertaking interdisciplinary research to assist public health professionals and policy makers in combating children's diseases caused by environment pollutants.

Provost Carol Folt (left) and Professor Margaret Karagas are associate director and director, respectively, of the new Children's Environmental Health and Disease Prevention Center at Dartmouth. The center will advance understanding of how arsenic exposureeven at low levelsaffects the health of mothers and children. (photo by Joseph Mehling '69)

"Our nascent center will help advance our research on understanding the possible consequences of arsenic exposure on maternal and child health," says Margaret Karagas, the center's director and a professor of community and family medicine in epidemiology at Dartmouth Medical School (DMS). "In particular, it will allow us to gain critical insights on the effects of arsenic exposure on fetal growth and development as well as a mother's and infant's susceptibility to infection."

Populations around the world whose drinking water is highly contaminated with arsenic show increased incidences of low birth weight, fetal losses, cancer, and cardiovascular disease, says Karagas. However, she points out, "We don't yet know what levels of arsenic are safe. In our studies of cancer risks in New Hampshire, we've seen evidence that relatively low levels of exposure may have adverse health effects."

The fetal and neonatal period represent an especially vulnerable window of exposure, and there is a growing awareness that exposures early in life can influence children's health as well as the risk of adult onset diseases. "In rural areas such ours, we are concerned about people who rely on unregulated private water supplies for their homes," Karagas adds. "They may not be aware of the need to test their water for arsenic and other contaminants."

"Our new center brings together a diverse group of outstanding investigators, drawing on Dartmouth's strength in research and ease of bridging disciplines, departments, and schools," says Provost Carol Folt, associate director of the center and the Dartmouth Professor of Biological Sciences. "The reviewers also praised the center for bringing new scientists into this critical public health research area and pairing them with established mentors to ensure their success."

The center builds on the work of Dartmouth's highly interdisciplinary Toxic Metals Research group, which conducts leading research on toxic metals, including arsenic and mercury. Since its formation in 1995, the group has received research grants totaling over $40 million from the NIEHS's Superfund Research Program.


Contact: Latarsha Gatlin
Dartmouth College

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