American Society of Civil Engineers


Case Study–Puerto Rico Test Site for Exploring Contamination Threats


by José F. Cordero, (Graduate, School of Public Health, Medical Sciences Campus, University of Puerto Rico E-mail: jose.cordero6@upr.edu), John D. Meeker, (School of Public Health, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI E-mail: meekerj@umich.edu), Thomas Sheahan, (Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Northeastern University, Boston, MA 02115 E-mail: tsheahan@coe.neu.edu), Ingrid Padilla, (Department of Civil Engineering and Surveying, University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez, PR 00681 E-mail: Ingrid.Padilla@upr.edu), Roger Giese, (Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Northeastern University, Boston, MA 02115 E-mail: r.giese@neu.edu), Michael B. Silevitch, (Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Northeastern University, Boston, MA 02115 E-mail: msilevit@ece.neu.edu), Rita Loch-Caruso, (School of Public Health, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI E-mail: rlc@umich.edu), David Kaeli, (Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Northeastern University, Boston, MA 02115 E-mail: kaeli@ece.neu.edu), and Akram N. Alshawabkeh, (Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Northeastern University, Boston, MA 02115 E-mail: aalsha@coe.neu.edu)
Section: Geoenvironmental Case Histories: Challenges and Innovation, pp. 3553-3562, (doi:  http://dx.doi.org/10.1061/9780784412121.364)

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Document type: Conference Proceeding Paper
Part of: GeoCongress 2012: State of the Art and Practice in Geotechnical Engineering
Abstract: Puerto Rico has one of the highest densities of Superfund and National Priority List sites per square mile. The specific pollutants in those sites have been well documented and monitored over time. Puerto Rico has its share of public health problems as it has the highest rates of preterm birth compared to other jurisdiction in the US. Other important attributes, such as the stability and diversity of the population, and the presence of a karst environment with a major aquifer that provides most of the water supply to the study area, make Puerto Rico a good case study to evaluate the impact of exposure to contamination on public health problems. In this paper, we present an interdisciplinary approach to evaluate the relation between preterm birth, a common and well defined health outcome, and exposure to contamination from well-defined sources, pathways and receptors. The rate of preterm birth in Puerto Rico in 2008, the most recent year with available data, was 19.6% or nearly 1 out of every five births. Puerto Rico has gradually experienced nearly a doubling in the preterm rate since 1990, when it was at just 11.4%. The usual causes of preterm births, such as lack of prenatal care in the first trimester, maternal education, maternal smoking in pregnancy, and increased use of assisted reproductive technology (ART), do not explain the increase in the preterm rate observed in Puerto Rico. Through integrated analytical, mechanistic, epidemiology, fate-transport, and remediation studies, along with a centralized, indexed data repository, the program will deliver new knowledge and technology in the area of contaminants as a potential cause of preterm birth.


ASCE Subject Headings:
Puerto Rico
Water pollution