Developmental Exposure to Arsenic and Immune Function in Children

Arsenic is a common environmental pollutant and associated with adverse health outcomes in humans including cancer. Less well known, but equally important, is evidence that arsenic is immunotoxic. This pollutant readily crosses the placenta and there is mounting evidence that the developing immune system is more sensitive to chemical insult than the immune system of adults. We will extend the follow-up of a birth cohort recruited in Bangladesh whose early life exposure to arsenic to accomplish the following aims: 1) Determine the relationship between prenatal arsenic exposure and infectious diseases morbidity, 2) Determine the relationship between prenatal arsenic exposure and development of vaccine-induced antibodies, and 3) Explore the association between prenatal arsenic and changes in immune profiles in peripheral leukocytes in paired cord-infant blood samples. The findings from this study will provide a stronger basis for prevention of immune system dysfunctions related to environmental chemicals in children and inform human health risk assessments on arsenic. This study involves a multidisciplinary team and will be collaborating with Karen Levy at Emory University, Philippe Grandjean and David Christiani at Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, and Dhaka Community Hospital Trust in Bangladesh. Funded by the National Institutes of Environmental Health Science (2014-2019)

Epigenetic Effects of Prenatal Arsenic Exposure and Fetal Growth

Epidemiological and experimental studies suggest that the intrauterine environment may represent a biologically sensitive window for chemicals that may impair growth and organ development that result in adverse health outcomes later in life. While the mechanisms behind these relationships are unclear, it has been hypothesized that epigenetic dysregulation is involved. Using biological specimens collected in a prospective longitudinal birth cohort exposed to arsenic, the aims of this project are to 1) examine the association between prenatal arsenic exposure, a common environmental pollutant, and fetal growth; 2) investigate the interaction between arsenic and DNA methylation in fetal tissues; and 3) explore the association between DNA methylation and fetal growth. The results from this study are relevant to public health because adverse fetal growth can lead to low birthweight which is associated with increased morbidity and mortality. Additionally, the proposed studies will fill important research gaps in our knowledge of arsenic toxicity and its impact on fetal growth that could inform both clinical and public health interventions in developing and developed countries. Funded by the United States National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (2011-2015)

Tribal-University Evaluation of Chemical Exposures to Improve Community Health

The Community Engagement Core (CEC) of the Oregon State University’s Superfund Research Center (PAHS: New Technology and Emerging Health Risks) strives to build scientific capacity in Tribal communities and cultural capacity within the research community. We are improving risk assessment models by accounting for tribal land-use scenarios and unique exposure pathways. By translating this knowledge into effective and appropriate risk reduction strategies, we will reduce environmental disparities and improve the health of Pacific Northwest Tribes. The goals of the CEC are: 1) Build tribal capacity in analytical methods to improve their understanding of PAH and other chemical exposures; 2) Collaborate with other SRP Centers, EPA regional offices, and other stakeholders to disseminate our research findings and the principles of community-based environmental health research with tribal populations that reside on contaminated lands; and 3) Meet on annual basis with interdisciplinary advisory group who will provide overall guidance to the project. The CEC works closely with faculty in the Environmental & Molecular Toxicology Department at Oregon State University (Dave Williams, Robert Tanguay, Staci Simonich, Susan Tilton, Craig Marcus, and Kim Anderson) and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (Richard Corley, Justin Teeguarden, and Katrina Waters). Funded by the United States National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the United States Environmental Protection Agency (2013-2018)

Early childhood exposure to PBDEs and school readiness in children aged 3-5 years

Flame retardants that include polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) and triester organophosphate compounds (OPFRs) are widely used in building materials, polyurethane foam and electronic products to meet flammability standards. These compounds persist in the environment and accumulate in human tissues. Young children appear to be particularly vulnerable to exposure with up to 2.8 times higher levels of PBDEs in their blood compared to their mothers. Given concerns that chemical exposures early in life may translate into adverse neurological, motor, cognitive, and social development (e.g. school readiness competencies) we  propose a pilot study in 100 children aged 3 to 5 years of age that will allow us to i) identify factors that contribute to children’s exposures to flame retardants by sampling house hold dust, ii) evaluate the performance of a novel passive sampler fashioned as a wristband and worn by children to measure personal exposure to volatized PBDEs and OPFRs, and iii) generate preliminary data that will be used to develop an NIEHS R01 grant application that evaluates the association between children’s PBDE/OPFR exposure and school readiness competencies which will take into consideration children’s experiences in their home environments, as well as their early care and education programs. This study involves a multidisciplinary team of scientists at Oregon State University including co-PIs Megan MacDonald (Kinesiology) and Shannon Lipscomb (Human Development and Family Studies). Funded by Oregon State University’s Environmental Health Science Center.

Influence of arsenic on intestinal microbiota and immune function

Historically, arsenic has been used as an antibiotic but there is very little known about how it may influence the human microbiome or how those change may modulate the immune system., , less is known about the interaction between arsenic exposure and infectious disease. There remains a critical need to improve our understanding of how arsenic influences immunity particularly in regions where both arsenic exposure and infectious diseases are common like Southeast Asia. To address this need in public health, we propose to do a pilot study. We will apply a systems biology approach to accomplish the following aims: i) Evaluate the association between arsenic exposure and a suite of immune parameters in blood collected from 50 children recruited in Bangladesh who were born into an existing prospective birth cohort with known arsenic exposures; ii) Evaluate the association between arsenic exposure and intestinal microbiota in stool samples in the same children. This study involves a multidisciplinary team of scientists at Oregon State University including co-PIs Andriy Morgun, Natalia Shulzhenko, and Andy Houseman. Funded by Oregon State University Division of Health