Elyssa Gelmann, MPH '11

Cluj-Napoca, Romania

I spent the summer working at the Environmental Health Center in Cluj, Romania, under the guidance of two YSPH faculty members: Kathleen McCarty and Catherine Yeckel. My research focused on the effects of maternal arsenic exposure through drinking water. I worked in four rural communities located in western Romania, two of which have high levels of arsenic in drinking water and two which have low levels. With the help of a Romanian translator, I interviewed women who had given birth within the past 10 years and also took urine and drinking water samples from each subject. Half of the women had children with a low birth weight and half had children with a normal birth weight. The urine samples were analyzed to determine arsenic metabolite concentrations. Efficient metabolism of arsenic via methylation may protect an exposed individual against arsenic’s detrimental effects, such as low birth weight. I also spent time researching health care, reproductive health, environmental policy and arsenic exposure in Romania on a broader scale. Becoming familiar with the region was crucial to understanding my subjects’ lifestyles and exposures to other toxins that were of concern. It was a fascinating time to experience Romania and to interact with the people.