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Your Environment. Your Health.

Dartmouth College

Superfund Research Program

Arsenic Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Exposure Assessment

Project Leader: Margaret R. Karagas
Co-Investigator: Angeline S. Andrew
Grant Number: P42ES007373
Funding Period: 1995-2020

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Project Summary (2005-2008)

Arsenic is one of the chemicals deemed of greatest concern at Superfund sites on the EPA’s Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response (OSWER) list, and has been identified as a potent skin and bladder cancer carcinogen in highly exposed human populations. But, it is uncertain whether these effects occur at lower environmentally relevant levels for the US. Drs. Karagas and Andrew are building on their large US population based epidemiologic study which encompasses over 6,000 cancer cases and controls (over 1,200 bladder cancer cases, 1,200 squamous cell carcinoma cases, 1,200 basal cell carcinomas cases, and 1,200 controls) to investigate the impact on arsenic-related cancer risk of inherent and exogenous factors influencing targeted pathways hypothesized to be central to arsenic carcinogenesis:

  1. DNA damage and repair
  2. oxidative signaling
  3. methylation

The researchers’ database includes environmental samples (e.g., tap water) and biologic samples (e.g., toenail clippings, serum, white blood cell DlSLV providing a rich resource for application of scientific and technologic advances in trace metal detection am speciation, host susceptibility, biologic response and statistical methods. In this study the researchers add to this resource the collection of urine samples for isolation of urothelial cells and analysis of urinary arsenic metabolites and continue to cryopreserve lymphocytes, dietary data and a preserved water sample for speciation analysis from their ongoing studies. They are investigating the biologic effects of arsenic dose by applying unbiasec approaches (i.e., microarray and proteomic methods) to clarify: 

  1. the variability of repeated measures
  2. the tissue specificity
  3. the validity of response in humans

 Additionally, the researchers are evaluating the effects of environmentally relevant doses of arsenic on the central carcinogenic pathways, and are testing the effect of arsenic remediation on identified response biomarkers by performing assays at repeated time intervals after consumption of arsenic-free drinking water. They are integrating their findings by exploring novel statistical approaches for incorporating multiple measures of exposure along with biologic and clinical response in risk assessment. New Hampshire is ideally suited to study the effects of low-dose arsenic exposure since over 20 percent of the private wells in the region contain arsenic at levels that are suspected to affect human health. One area with especially high drinking water arsenic concentrations is located adjacent to a Superfund site. Moreover, their preliminary data suggest an enhanced risk of arsenic-related cancers in the presence PAHs exposure, such as benzo(a)pyrene another exposure of particular concern for Superfund sites. Thus, this study provides a unique opportunity to obtain results directly applicable to the US population.

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