Dirt Alert: Legacy Mining Contaminant Exposure in Preschool

Investigator: Peggy J. Reynolds, PhD, MPH, MA
Sponsor: California Breast Cancer Research Program

Location(s): United States


Cadmium (Cd) and Arsenic (As), cancer-causing metals associated with increased risk of breast and uterine cancers, are widespread contaminants throughout the Gold Country of northern CA as a result of extensive historic gold mining. The three most populous counties in Gold Country have age-adjusted breast cancer rates that rank in the top ten of the 58 counties in CA. Findings from the CA Health Impacts of Mining Exposure study (CHIME) indicate that older women who are long term residents have a significantly increased body burden of Cd and As compared to younger women and to women of the same age who are recent arrivals. This project seeks to expand this investigation by assessing whether young children, who represent a particularly important window of vulnerability for breast cancer, are being exposed to the metals of concern in preschool gardens, through incidental soil ingestion, inhalation of metal-containing dust, and consumption of plants grown in local gardens. In terms of exposures, children are a sensitive population and when living near contaminated sites, they receive the majority of their metal exposure through indirect ingestion of soil and dust due to hand-to-mouth transfers of the contaminated media. Conducting an exposure assessment that takes into consideration multiple exposure routes is crucial in order to protect the developmental health of children.