Superfund Research Program
Early Life Exposure to Tetrachloroethylene (PCE)-Contaminated Drinking Water and Social Stressors may Interact to Increase the Risk of Substance Use Later in Life
Dr. Ann Aschengrau’s group is conducting a population-based retrospective cohort study to test the hypothesis that tetrachloroethylene (also known as PCE) found in the public drinking water supplies in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, is associated with an increased risk of nervous system abnormalities among men and women exposed during gestation and childhood. The source of the water contamination was a vinyl liner that was applied to hundreds of miles of asbestos cement water distribution pipes in eight towns in the Cape Cod area from the late 1960s through 1980. The study population is comprised of individuals who were exposed to PCE contaminated drinking water during 1969-1983 and a comparable group of unexposed subjects. Exposed subjects include individuals with both prenatal and childhood exposure and their older siblings with only childhood exposure. Hypothesized effects include an increased prevalence of indicators and diagnoses related to vision disorders and developmental disabilities of learning and attention; impaired performance on neuropsychological and vision tests; and increased prevalence of cerebral pathology and dysfunction as seen in neuroimaging studies. Nervous system effects are anticipated to be time-dependent with greater effects among individuals who had both prenatal and childhood exposure compared with those with only childhood exposure.
Over the past year, Dr. Aschengrau and her team have completed:
- All data collection activities using self-administered surveys, neuropsychological and vision tests, and structural and functional MRIs;
- EPANET-based exposure assessments to determine PCE exposure levels during gestation and early childhood; and
- Data analysis preparations.
The team has also made considerable progress conducting epidemiological and statistical analyses and drafting several manuscripts. These manuscripts will be submitted for publication in the coming months.
Along with investigators from Dr. Tom Webster’s research group, Dr. Aschengrau’s team also published manuscripts on the following topics: (1) a spatial analysis of learning and developmental disorders, (2) a multi-level study of birth weight and socioeconomic status, and (3) analysis of breast cancer risk using groundwater modeling. Lastly, Dr. Aschengrau collaborated with investigators at Silent Spring Institute (Newton, MA) to publish a paper on self-reported chemical exposure and the risk of breast cancer.