In the News Archives

November 18 2015 to November 20 2015

2015 Superfund Research Program Annual Meeting

Left to Right: Faruque Parvez, Sandra Baptista, Joe Graziano, Mary Gamble, Caitlin Howe, Jessica Cox, Jing Sun, Tiffany Sanchez, Brian Mailloux















The 2015 NIEHS Superfund Research Program (SRP) annual meeting was held November 18th to 20th at the Caribe Hilton in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The Puerto Rico Testsite for Exploring Contamination Threats (PROTECT) SRP Center hosted the event. The PROTECT Center is a multi-project, multi-institution collaboration including Northeastern University, University of Puerto Rico, and University of Michigan.

CU SRP participants presented a total of eleven posters. Jing Sun won an award in the environmental sciences and engineering category of the annual poster competition for her poster, "Use of reactive transport modeling for understanding and designing the magnetite based arsenic immobilization strategy." Jing also presented a poster titled, "Use of oxalic acid for mobilizing arsenic from contaminated sediments and decreasing vulnerability to reduction" and a poster co-authored with CU SRP scientists Ben Bostick, Steve Chillrud, Brian Mailloux, and Lex van Geen titled, "Insights from a kinetics-based model describing aqueous arsenic concentrations at Superfund sites."

On Day 1 of the meeting, during the SRP Research Translation and Community Engagement Cores (RTC-CEC) Program, Sandra Baptista, CU SRP RTC Co-PI, participated in the workgroup, “Communicating Science Online” and CU SRP RTC/CEC Co-I Stuart Braman participated in the workgroup, “Reporting Back Exposure Data to Individuals and Communities.” Braman presented an RTC poster co-authored with Steve Chillrud, Sara Flanagan, and Yan Zheng on, "Collaboration to reduce arsenic exposure from private well water in New Jersey.” Yan Zheng, CU SRP CEC PI, presented an RTC poster co-authored with Sara Flanagan, Karyn Butts, Andrew Smith, and Robert Marvinney on, "Arsenic in private well water: collaboration on community engagement in Maine" and an RTC poster co-authored with Joseph Ayotte on, "Tackling arsenic exposure from private well water in rural American communities." Brian Mailloux, Co-I on Projects 4 & 5, presented an environmental science and engineering poster titled, "Metagenomic and radiocarbon analysis of PLFA, DNA, RNA, and proteins to better understand arsenic impacted aquifers in Bangladesh."

On Day 2 Faruque Parvez presented a biomedical poster, "Arsenic exposure, non-malignant respiratory outcomes and immune modulation in the Health Effects of Arsenic Longitudinal Study (HEALS) cohort." CU SRP Project 3 PI Mary Gamble presented a poster co-authored by Maria Argos, Farzana Jasmine, Brandon Pierce, Vesna Slavkovich, Joe Graziano, Muhammad Kibriya, and Habib Ahsan titled, "Epigenetic and gene expression effects of arsenic exposure." CU SRP Student Caitlin Howe, who works on Project 3 with Dr. Gamble, presented a poster, "Sex-specific influences of arsenic and nutritional indices on post-translational histone modifications in Bangladeshi adults." Jessica Cox, Postdoctoral Fellow, Project 3, presented a poster, "Arsenic exposure and global %5mc and %5hmC in a population of Bangladeshi adults."

On Day 3, during a scientific session on Sustainable Communities, SRP Student Tiffany Sanchez, who works on Project 2 with CU SRP Director Joe Graziano, presented a biomedical talk titled, "Identifying intermediary pulmonary effects among Bangladeshi adolescents with known life stage water arsenic exposure.”

Bernice Ramos-Perez represented the CU SRP at the Administrators’ Program.

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October 30 2015

Joe Graziano and Ben Bostick quoted in Smithsonian Magazine article

Columbia SRP Director Dr. Joseph Graziano and CU SRP PI Dr. Benjamin Bostick are quoted in the October 30, 2015 Smithsonian  Magazine  article, "Arsenic and Old Graves: Civil War-Era Cemeteries May Be Leaking Toxins" by Mollie Bloudoff-Indelicato.

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October 29 2015

Jing Sun Completes Ph.D. Thesis Defense

Jing Sun defends her Ph.D. thesis

Congratulations to Dr. Jing Sun who successfully defended her Ph.D. thesis, “Developing improved strategies of remediating arsenic contaminated aquifers,” at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory on Thursday, October 29, 2015. Dr. Sun completed her dissertation in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences under the supervision of Columbia SRP PIs Drs. Benjamin Bostick and Steven Chillrud. She has been working on Project 4 (Arsenic, Iron, Sulfur and Organic Carbon Speciation and their Impact on Groundwater Arsenic) under the direction of Dr. Bostick and on Project 5 (Application of Enhanced Mitigation Methods for Groundwater Arsenic at US Superfund Sites) under the direction of Dr. Chillrud.

October 13 2015

Smartphone Apps for Citizen Scientists Workshop Series

Alexander van Geen, Associate Director of the Columbia University SRP (Photo credit: S. Baptista)

Associate Director of the Columbia SRP Alexander van Geen and Co-Director of Columbia University’s Urban Design Lab Patricia Culligan moderated the first in a series of workshops on Smartphone Apps for Citizen Scientists at the Earth Institute. The goal of this workshop series is to promote the development of apps as research and teaching tools and to examine a range of topics, including the underlying science and technical development, the legal and privacy concerns of data collection and dissemination, and the implications for environmental justice and regulations enforcement. The first workshop held on Tuesday, October 13, 2015 focused on airborne contaminants and featured presentations by five panelists: Michael Heimbinder, Founder and Executive Director of HabitatMap; Darby Jack, Assistant Professor of Environmental Health Sciences at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health; Lindsay Mollineaux, New York City’s Deputy Chief Analytics Officer and the Deputy Director of the Mayor’s Office of Data Analytics; Nicholas Masson, an independent engineering contractor, owner of Full Circle Engineering LLC, and recent co-founder of Multitude Inc.; and Richard Witten, Special Advisor to the President of Columbia University Lee Bollinger. The next two workshops scheduled for December 1, 2015 and February 16, 2016 will address water and soil contaminants.

September 1 2015

Program to Inspire Minority Under-graduates in EHS Research (PrIMER)

Dr. Joe Graziano & Natalia Fernandez, PrIMER Research Presentations, August 7, 2015 (Photo credit: S. Baptista)

The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) awarded Joe Graziano, Greg Freyer (Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health) and Lissette Delgado-Cruzata (John Jay College of Criminal Justice) a grant to develop PrIMER. The five-year program started this summer with eight undergraduates from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, part of the City University of New York (CUNY), conducting research alongside Columbia University Environmental Health Sciences faculty mentors for 10 weeks at Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health. Each student will spend two years in the program. The ultimate goal is to encourage the students to apply to graduate programs and pursue careers in environmental health sciences. On August 6th and 7th, the PrIMER students presented their research to an audience of Columbia and John Jay faculty and staff.  Three of the eight students have mentors that include CU SRP faculty; Natalia Fernandez presented "Risk Factors of Lead Exposure in Children and Adolescents in Bangladesh” (mentor Joe Graziano), Argenis Ramologan presented “Validation Study of Collected Parameters by the Hexoskin vs. Laboratory Standards” (mentors Aimee Layton, Darby Jack, and Steve Chillrud) and Crystal Kennedy presented “Biking, Air Pollution and Health: A Pilot Study” (mentors Darby Jack, Cara Smith and Steve Chillrud).  The students will continue to work with the Columbia faculty throughout the ongoing academic year.

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August 19 2015

Presentation of Household Survey Findings to NJDEP and NJDOH Staff

On August 19th, CU SRP Community Engagement and Research Translation Core scientists Yan Zheng and Sara Flanagan along with New Jersey DEP Research Scientist Steve Spayd presented the findings of their 2014 household survey on private well water testing in Northern NJ and 2015 follow-up water sampling activities. They met in Trenton with six staff members of the NJ Departments of Health and Environmental Protection, including a manager of the DOH Environmental Health Tracking Program which funded the study, the DEP Bureau Chief of Safe Drinking Water, and the DEP Chief Information Officer. The presentation was well received by the audience. Findings will be published in a forthcoming comprehensive technical report of the survey and water sampling and in peer reviewed journals.

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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