This series "Early-life Exposures - Long-term Health Consequences" features SRP research in revealing the vulnerability of a developing child by identifying how biological systems are disturbed in this early period of life. The series will showcase cutting edge research findings that illuminate the consequences of early life exposures to metals and organic contaminants of emerging concern.
The third session of this series "Early-life Exposures - Long-term Health Consequences Part 3: PCE and Phthalates" features SRP grantees Dr. Ann Aschengrau (Boston University), Dr. John Meeker (University of Michigan) and Dr. Rita Loch-Caruso (University of Michigan) and their work with early exposures and their resulting developmental effects. Numerous neurotoxic effects have been associated with tetrachloroethylene (PCE) exposure in adults, but little is understood about long-term nervous system effects from early exposures. Dr. Aschengrau's retrospective epidemiological study on a population of adults investigates the association between prenatal and early childhood exposure to PCE-contaminated drinking water and a variety of neurotoxic effects including the occurrence of drug use and mental illness.
Dr. Meeker employs molecular epidemiological methods to explore environmental, genetic, demographic, and behavioral factors associated with preterm birth in a cohort of pregnant women in Puerto Rico, a study from the Northeastern University SRP Center. Puerto Rico has a particularly alarming preterm birth rate and there is mounting evidence that environmental factors play a key role. This study targets phthalates as the primary exposure of interest, due to their increasingly widespread exposure in Puerto Rico and the US and their association with reduced gestational age and other effects potentially linked with preterm birth, including inflammation, endocrine disruption, and oxidative stress. Using the Puerto Rican exposure scenario as a model, Dr. Loch-Caruso's research aims to explain the mechanisms by which environmental pollutant exposures increase women's risk for preterm births and other adverse birth outcomes, by investigating the relationship between the toxicological effect of oxidative stress from environmental contaminants and the activation of pathways associated of parturition.