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CLU-IN Studio
United States Environmental Protection Agency
Using GIS Tools to Analyze, Compute, and Predict Pollution, Session I - Exposure Assessment in the Field and links to Human Health
Sponsored by: NIEHS Superfund Research Program
Original Time/Date of Presentation:

February 6, 2014, 2:00 PM - 4:00 PM, EST (19:00-21:00 GMT)

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Presentation Overview:

Preterm birth, the leading cause of neonatal mortality in the U.S., may be associated with exposure to legacy and emergent contaminants in the environment. Puerto Rico has one of the highest rates of preterm birth, as well as density of Superfund Sites in the United States. As part of NIEHS's Superfund Research Program, the Puerto Rico Testsite for Exploring Contamination Threats (PROTECT) is exploring the relationships between exposure to hazardous chemicals and preterm birth in northern Puerto Rico. Particular attention is given to chlorinated volatile organic compounds and phthalates, although biomarkers of phenols, metals, and parabens exposure are also being explored as precursors of preterm birth. Identification of associations between contaminants and preterm birth requires collection and integration of complex multi-disciplinary datasets. The first presentation will describe the data management system being developed by PROTECT to integrate, manage, analyze, and relate environmental, demographic, exposure biomarkers, and birth outcome data. The discussion will center on the applicability of the system, built on a foundation of Earthsoft's EQUIS®, to assess the extent of groundwater and tap water contamination, identify other modes of exposure, define patterns in biomarkers of exposure and birth outcomes from an ongoing birth cohort, perform relational queries, and map spatial patterns that can be directly visualized with ArcGIS.

Toxic metals are widespread environmental contaminants that are known human carcinogens and/or developmental toxicants. The levels of metals in private well water are federally unregulated. The second presenter will describe two studies that used GIS mapping in North Carolina to examine 1) the spatial patterns of arsenic levels private wells, and 2) the association between private well levels of arsenic, cadmium, manganese, and lead and birth defects prevalence. The studies used a statewide database of private well contaminants collected by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Division of Public Health as well as data from the North Carolina Birth Defects Monitoring Program.

Presenters: Instructors:
  • Ingrid Padilla, Ph.D., University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez ( and Dave Kaeli, Ph.D., Northeastern University (
    • Presentation title: Application of the PROTECT Data Management System to Assess Relationships Between Environmental Chemical Exposure and Population Birth Outcomes in Northern Puerto Rico
  • Alison Sanders, Ph.D., University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (
    • Presentation title: Mapping metal levels in private wells and assessing the association with congenital heart defects in North Carolina
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