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 team 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 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 composed 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, the researchers have made progress in data-collection activities, including conducting neuropsychological and vision tests and neuroimaging studies; geocoding reported addresses and conducting the exposure assessments; conducting epidemiological and statistical analyses; preparing abstracts for scientific meetings; and drafting manuscripts for publication. To date, the researchers have geocoded approximately 95% of the reported addresses and have conducted neuropsychological and vision tests and neuroimaging studies on 56 and 37 subjects, respectively. Preliminary analyses of the questionnaire and neuropsychological testing data also have been conducted.
The researchers also published manuscripts on the relationship between PCE exposure and pregnancy loss and congenital malformations and presented preliminary findings on neuropsychological functioning at the annual meeting of the Society of Toxicology. Along with researchers from the Analyzing Patterns in Epidemiologic and Toxicologic Data project, Dr. Aschengrau also published a manuscript on the spatial distribution of cancer on Cape Cod.