In the News Archives

July 13 2015

Battling ‘the Largest Mass Poisoning in History'- CU Earth Institute blog

Columbia University Earth Institute State of the Planet online news blog highlights the Columbia SRP’s research and activities related to studying and remediating arsenic in drinking water in Bangladesh. “Battling ‘the Largest Mass Poisoning in History'” ( was published online on July 13th, 2015 and updated July 25th by Kevin Krajick and David Funkhouser. The article extensively reviews “a wide range of initiatives, including long-term health programs, continued drilling of safer wells, education and continuing investigations into the geology of arsenic contamination.” It highlights the research and findings by the Columbia SRP scientists and their partners, including Dr. Joseph Graziano, Dr. Lex van Geen, Dr. Kazi Matin Ahmed, Ms. Sara Flanagan, Dr. Brian Mailloux and Mr. Tyler Ellis, and Dr. Benjamin Bostick.

The Columbia SRP team have tested and labeled more than 50,000 wells. Its longitudinal health study includes more than 35,000 residents from the Araihazar District. The integration of both exposure and health data has generated a much more comprehensive understanding of the toxicity of arsenic from very low to extremely high doses.

The Columbia SRP scientists go beyond just studying the health impacts and exposure pathways of arsenic in drinking water to providing health education, medical care, and innovative tools and technologies. They have used tools to speed tests and cataloging of wells, such as inexpensive, simple field water-sampling kits and cell-phone technology that send results to a central database in Dhaka. Dr. Graziano heralds the positive results from their efforts, “The best thing is, our education and prevention efforts have led to a 28 percent reduction in the arsenic blood level of our subjects.”

Dr. Kazi Matin Ahmed, a hydrogeologist at the University of Dhaka, is a Co-Investigator of the Columbia SRP Project 6 and has worked closely since the beginning of the program with Deputy Director and Project 6 PI Dr. Lex van Geen. As part of the biomedical projects, early on Columbia saw a need to provide medical services study area. Today, Dr. Tariqul Islam serves as the clinic’s director, overseeing a four-building complex and 125 employees who provide basic health and dental services to the area. The clinic offers an array of diagnostic tools—X-ray, EKG and ultrasound machines, and state-of-the-science equipment to test blood and take DNA samples.

Columbia scientists in Bangladesh also collaborate with other health, earth, and social science researchers from the University of Chicago, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Delaware, the University of Dhaka, Duke University, Universitat Pompeu Fabra and Texas A&M University.

July 7 2015

CU SRP Student Caitlin Howe wins First Prize for Poster at International Conference in France

Columbia SRP Student Caitlin Howe received First Prize for Best Poster at the 10th International Conference on One Carbon Metabolism, B vitamins and Homocysteine held at the Medical School of the University of Lorraine in Nancy, France, July 7-11, 2015. Ms. Howe presented the poster, “One-carbon metabolism indices, folic acid supplementation, and histone modifications in Bangladeshi adults”. The following scientists collaborated with Ms. Howe on this research: X Liu, MN Hall, V Ilievski, M Caudill, Faruque Parvez, Abu B. Siddique, Hasan Shahriar, Nasir Uddin, Tariqul Islam, JH Graziano, and MV Gamble.

PDF icon pdf of poster901.82 KB

May 30 2015

Kids Test Water for Arsenic at World Science Festival

SRP Project 4 PI Ben Bostick hosted an exhibit at the World Science Festival in New York City on May 30th, where more than 500 children participated in a field kit-based water-testing laboratory analyzing groundwater arsenic.

April 14 2015

Director Joe Graziano testifies before Maine State Legislature

Columbia's SRP Director, Joe Graziano, testified before the Maine Legislature's Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development Committee on April 14th regarding the proposed bill LD 937, on Private Well Water testing requirements. Both Dr. Graziano and our SRP Community Engagement Core PI Yan Zheng also sent in written testimony for this bill and a similar one, LD 1162, presented to another committee.

Columbia’s CEC partner, Bob Marvinney had this to say:
“Joe Graziano brought a very important message to the Maine Legislature today with his testimony on LD 937, a bill which provides mechanisms to increase private well testing and remediation in Maine.  It was very helpful for the legislative committee to hear directly from a prominent member of the public health community on the issue of arsenic in private well water. We hope the Legislature will take some action!”

Referring to the research led by Dr. Graziano’s SRP Project 2 research, Michael Shepherd with the Portland Herald noted, “The issue gained more attention last year, when scientists from Columbia University and the University of New Hampshire released a five-year study of 272 students in grades 3 through 5 at schools in Manchester, Readfield, Monmouth, Wayne, Mount Vernon and Hallowell who were exposed to arsenic in water. It found that exposure to even low levels could lower IQ levels by as many as six points on a test.”

The majority of the committee voted to pass the bill as amended. A minority voted not to pass the bill. The full legislature passed with very strong bipartisan votes in both the House (108-40) and Senate (22-13) the Act to Ensure Safe Drinking Water for Maine Families (LD 1162), championed by Rep. Drew Gattine, Rep. Karen Vachon, and Rep. Gary Hilliard. However, on June 26th Maine Governor Paul LePage vetoed the bill.  An attempt to override the veto on June 30th fell four votes short in the House.  Proponents are hopeful that the growing support for well water testing will secure passage of future legislation.

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March 28 2015

Ben Bostick presents at Earth2Class “Saturday Workshop for Educators”

CU SRP PI Dr. Benjamin Bostick presented “The Source and Solution to Groundwater Arsenic Contamination” to K-12 classroom teachers on March 28th, at Columbia's Lamont Campus.

Earth to Class (E2C) provides unique resources for K-12 teachers, students, geoscientists, and the general public. It is a collaboration among Columbia LDEO researchers, technical specialists at Colégio Bandeirantes, São Paulo, Brasil  and US classroom teachers. Dr. Michael J. Passow, an earth science educator and Associate Research Scientist at Columbia's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, started the weekend workshop series in 1998 for the advancement of Earth Science Education and Teacher enhancement. Participants receive a certificate of attendance at each workshop that has been accepted for District professional development credits. The “Earth2Class” website ( archives versions of the workshop; resources for middle and high school Earth Science teachers and students; suggestions for incorporating educational technology into the classroom; links to science education and professional societies; and many other useful materials. According to Dr. Passow, the website has averaged more than 300,000 hits per month.

Previously, CU SRP Associate Director, Dr. Alexander van Geen, presented “Arsenic in the Groundwaters of Bangladesh” and Co-Investigator Martin Stute gave a a talk on “Visualization of Groundwater Flow Using Sand Boxes, Links to Local and International Water Resources Issues” as part of the Earth to Class Saturday Workshop series.

Please see the links below to the Earth2Class presentations related to arsenic given by Columbia Superfund Research Program scientists.

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March 4 2015

Columbia SRP Student Caitlin Howe Writes for EpiBeat on Histone Cleavage Impacts

The editors of the new online epigenetics blog (EpiBeat) invited SRP student Caitlin Howe to write a short summary of her Letter to publish on the EpiBeat blog regarding her recent findings related to histone modifications. Ms. Howe and Project 3 PI Dr. Mary Gamble have identified a cleavage product of histone H3 in human peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs), which interferes with the measurement of downstream modifications, (such as H3K9me2). They reported this finding earlier this year in a Letter to the Editor, which was published in Clinical Epigenetics, the official journal of the Clinical Epigenetics Society.

Histone modifications are increasingly being used as biomarkers of cancer prognosis and survival. They are also novel targets of interest for environmental epidemiology studies.

Howe CG and Gamble MV.  Enzymatic cleavage of histone H3: a new consideration when measuring histone modifications in human samples.  Clin Epigen 2015 Jan 22; 7(1):7.  PMCID:PMC4307743 doi: 10.1186/s13148-014-0041-5

February 23 2015

CU SRP February Seminar/ Webinar Video Geomicrobiology of Arsenic and Antimony

On Monday, 23rd February 2015, Dr. Thomas R. Kulp, Assistant Professor with the Department of Geological Sciences and Environmental Studies at Binghamton University, SUNY, presented, "The geomicrobiology of arsenic and antimony".

Links to the YouTube video recording of the presentation and the pdf of the slide presentation are available below.

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February 4 2015

CBS News Video Features Columbia SRP Director Dr. Graziano

As part of the online CBS News video "Health worries about Arsenic", Dr. Graziano explains that scientific research now attributes a wide range of long-term health effects from exposures to arsenic in food and water. Columbia's SRP studies indicate that prenatal exposure to Arsenic via drinking water can also alter DNA and cause serious health effects later in life. In addition to Dr. Graziano, the clip shows Columbia SRP graduate student Tiffany Sanchez conducting tests in the Center's Trace Metals laboratory.


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February 3 2015

February NIEHS SRP Research Brief focuses on CU SRP CEC collaboration: Assessing and Reducing Health Risks from Arsenic in Private Well Water

Columbia SRP Community Engagement Core PI Dr. Yan Zheng and Joseph Ayotte, P.G., a U.S. Geological Survey hydrologist collaborated together to co-edit a special section on arsenic for the journal Science of the Total Environment (STOTEN), Volume 505, 1 February 2015. Their summary paper, “At the crossroads: Hazard assessment and reduction of health risks from arsenic in private well waters of the northeastern United States and Atlantic Canada” is the first in a collection of thirteen papers

The SRP Research Brief summarizes the ongoing research on arsenic (AS) hydrogeochemistry, effectiveness of household well treatment systems, and the testing and treatment decisions of private well owners in several northeastern U.S. states and in Nova Scotia, Canada. It summarizes two research studies on household behaviors in response to elevated arsenic led by CU SRP Community Engagement and Research Translation Cores Co-investigator, Sara V. Flanagan. In light of all the research, Zheng and Ayotte conclude that to actually reduce exposure from arsenic in private drinking water wells, there must first be a better understanding of what actions people take and why. The authors suggest that homeowners in areas prone to high levels of arsenic in well water be provided with a larger range of options. An exposure-reduction tool box, for example, could consider the range of concerns and needs of homeowners and provide guidance to encourage well testing, treatment, and access to alternative water.

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November 12 2014 to November 14 2014

2014 Superfund Research Program Annual Meeting

SRP Annual Meeting 2014: Sandra Baptista, Stuart Braman, and Meredith Golden
The 2014 NIEHS SRP Annual meeting was held November 12th to 14th at the Dolce Hayes Mansion and Conference Center in San Jose, CA. The UC Berkeley SRP Center hosted the event. Please see the NIEHS web site for more details:
Columbia SRP Associate Director Lex van Geen served on the Science Program planning committee. Meredith Golden, RTC Co-PI, helped organize the Research Translation and Community Engagement sessions. Golden also moderated one of the group round table discussions on Data Sharing. The Science Poster Session required that all entries include both scientific and lay titles and abstracts. Dr. Megan Hall, Project 3 collaborator, presented a poster on "Folic Acid and Creatine as Therapeutic Approaches to Lower Blood Arsenic: A Randomized Trial" (Science Abstract title) and "Nutritional supplementation to lower blood arsenic" (Lay Abstract title). SRP Student Tiffany Sanchez who works on Project 2 with Director Graziano participated in the Science session with a poster entitled, "Limited impact of point-of-use filters on arsenic exposure in the Folate and Creatine Trial (FACT)" (Science Poster Abstract title) and "Characterizing the impact of filter use habits on water arsenic exposure" (Lay Abstract title). As part of the Research Translation and Community Engagement poster session, Columbia SRP RTC/CEC Co-investigator Dr. Stuart Braman presented Columbia's poster on "Building Partnerships between Local and State Government Agencies and the RTC and CEC- Time, Effort, and Outcomes. Dr. Joe Graziano, Dr. Mary Gamble, Dr. Sandra Baptista, and Nancy LoIacono also represented the Columbia SRP at the three day annual meeting.
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