In the News Archives

October 3 2014

NIEHS Health Effects and Mitigation of Arsenic: Current Research Efforts and Future Directions Workshop Report is now available online

The NIEHS Health Effects and Mitigation of Arsenic: Current Research Efforts and Future Directions Workshop (March 3-4, 2014) summary report is now posted on the NIEHS website, which includes a summary of the presentations and and the additional panel discussion webinar series. Topics included exposure sources and mitigation, remediation, bioavailability, contributions of advanced techniques, and susceptibility. The goal of these panel discussions was to highlight new techniques and identify data gaps to help guide future research directions.

Mary Gamble, Megan Hall, and Alexander van Geen gave presentations on June 3rd as part of the NIEHS Arsenic Workshop panel on "Prevention and Remediation Strategies for Arsenic Exposure". The first topic focused on the premiss that "Nutrition is a preventative strategy that can reduce the adverse health effects of arsenic exposure". Drs. Gamble and Hall addressed the questions: What are the considerations, limitations, and challenges to using this approach? What are some of the other more recent nutritional interventions that we should be aware of? Dr. van Geen then cited the importance of research translation and community engagement in reducing potential exposure to arsenic in drinking water. He also considered the issue "Should blanket testing of private wells for As throughout the US be offered or imposed?" These and other presentations given as part of the NIEHS Arsenic Workshop Panel Discussion Webinar Series summary report.

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September 22 2014 to September 24 2014

NIEHS PEPH Annual Meeting Focuses on Innovative Approaches to Environmental Health Literacy (EHL)

Beth Anderson and Meredith Golden at the PEPH Annual Meeting 2014

Meredith Golden, CU SRP RTC Co-PI, participated in the Partnerships for Environmental Public Health (PEPH) 2014 Annual Meeting: Communication Research in Environmental Health Sciences – Environmental Health Literacy (EHL), September 22-23rd, in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina.  Golden facilitated the meeting’s group discussions on Tools and Technologies- Methods for Raising EHL. The session focused on the full range of tools from printed materials to social media and interactive mapping as well as other innovative research technologies that enhance EHL and assist community science.

NIEHS Director Dr. Linda Birnbaum in her welcoming speech emphasized how Communications Research is a vital component of the NIEHS Strategic Plan. There must be bi-directional communications among researchers and affected communities. Research studies and their findings must be presented so that communities will get involved and take actions. Different communities and stakeholders require different strategies.  Birnbaum’s charge to the meeting participants is 1) to identify research opportunities, evaluation approaches, validation tools, and key partners; 2) to identify the critical parameters of Environmental Health Literacy (EHL); 3) to examine next steps to advance EHL; and 4) to help further NIEHS’ commitment to Communications Research.

The first speaker of the Tools and Technology Session, Paul English, Environmental Epidemiologist and Science Advisor for the Environmental Health Investigations Branch at the California Department of Health, demonstrated how The California Environmental Health Tracking Program uses GIS mapping and statistical modeling of local data to communicate risk to communities. Then, Sara Wylie, assistant professor at Northeastern University’s Social Science Environmental Health Research Institute and co-founder of Public Lab, along with community partner Deborah Thomas jointly discussed using photographic paper to monitor Hydrogen Sulfide exposure from oil and gas extraction, and then mapping their findings so that community members could more easily visualize the extent of potential hazardous health risks.  Finally, Alexandra Anderson, Community Outreach & Translation Core Coordinator for Zero Breast Cancer, explained the Photovoice project which provides adolescent girls with hands on experiences to understand their environment and identify potential risks impacting their health during puberty.

Over 120 participants representing government, academia, health care providers, non-profit organizations, and community partners actively participated in the meeting. In addition, several “Watch Parties” joined in remotely and ran concurrent discussion groups. The meeting presentations and summaries from the discussion groups will be available online sometime in the next month.

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June 17 2014

June Meetings: Scientists and Policy-makers in Bangladesh and Vietnam

CU SRP Director Graziano, Deputy Director van Geen, Co-I Kazi Matin Ahmed with Bangladesh Minister of Health, BRAC Director & Bangladeshi partners

On June 17, Columbia University SRP Director Joseph Graziano will be giving a presentation to the Bangladesh Medical Research Council and the Bangladesh Minister of Health summarizing the key findings of Columbia's 15 years of arsenic research in Bangladesh. In addition, Project 6 Co-Investigator Dr. Kazi Matin Ahmed will describe for the audience the magnitude of the arsenic problem in Bangladesh from a geoscientific perspective. Associate Director Alexander van Geen and Project 1 Co-Investigator Dr. Faruque Parvez will also participate in the meeting.
Dr. Graziano will then travel to Vietnam and on June 23rd present an overview of the Columbia SRP to the Vietnam National Institute of Occupational and Environmental Health.


May 19 2014

Columbia CEC and RTC teams collaborate with NJ DEP on household survey of private well owners in NJ areas where well waters frequently exceed drinking water standards for arsenic

Columbia Superfund Research Program CEC and RTC collaborate with New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) on Arsenic Survey

Through both Columbia SRP's monthly seminar/webinar series and ongoing meetings with our Research Translation Core (RTC) on arsenic in private well issues, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) learned of the Columbia SRP Community Engagement Core (CEC) research on private well treatment and testing in Maine. This has resulted in a new collaboration with all 3 groups.  The survey has been sent to 2000 households in 17 New Jersy towns where private well ownership is high and arsenic occurrence in private well waters has been documented.  Interventions have already been undertaken in seven of the towns and the study will explore the effect of previous interventions as well as seeking to identify factors promoting or discouraging testing and treatment.  Following completion of the survey all 2000 households will be mailed information about resources for testing, treatment and basic information about arsenic in drinking water issues, including links to the arsenic awareness and testing videos produced by Columbia's RTC.

The project team included in the group photo above are from left to right: Nick Procopio, NJDEP Office of Science; Yan Zheng, CU SRP CEC; Ted Pallis, NJDEP New Jersey Geological and Water Survey; Rachel Filo, NJDEP New Jersey Geological and Water Survey; Nicole Malerba, NJDEP New Jersey Geological and Water Survey; Steve Spayd, NJDEP New Jersey Geological and Water Survey; Judy Louis, NJDEP Office of Science; Sandra Goodrow, NJDEP Office of Science; Stuart Braman, CU SRP RTC.

Also helping with the survey are from left to right below: Sara Flanagan, CU SRP RTC; Shehong Li, Lamont visiting scholar; Steve Spayd, NJDEP New Jersey Geological and Water Survey; Michelle,, NJDEP New Jersey Geological and Water Survey, and Steve Chillrud, CU SRP RTC.


May 11 2014 to May 16 2014

CU SRP research highlighted at Arsenic 2014 Congress in Buenos Aires

Several Columbia SRP scientists participated in the 5th International Congress on Arsenic in the Environment (As2014), held in Buenos Aires, Argentina between 11-16 May 2014. Ms. Sara Flanagan,  CEC and RTC scientist, received first prize under Theme 5: Mitigation Management and Policy  for the poster she co-authored with Dr. Yan Zheng, on “Arsenic exposure through well water and household behavior in a rural Maine community: Implications for mitigation”. In addition, Dr. Yu Chen gave an oral  presentation on “Gene-Environment Interactions between Arsenic Exposure from Drinking Water and Genetic Susceptibility in Cardiovascular Disease Risk and Carotid Artery Intima-Media Thickness in Bangladesh”, based on research conducted as part of Columbia SRP’s Project 1 with additional collaborators from Columbia, New York University, University of Chicago, and U-Chicago Research Bangladesh, Ltd., Dhaka, Bangladesh. A co-investigator of that research, Dr. Faruque Parvez, along with Project 6 Co-Investigator Dr. Kazi Matin Ahmed, also attended the conference. The theme of As2014 was "One century of the discovery of arsenicosis in America (1913-2014)", to commemorate 100 years of the discovery of the effects of arsenic in human life in Latin America.

Please find links below to both the poster and oral presentation abstract.


May 1 2014

CU SRP presents findings on As impact on school children to Maine CDC

CU SRP scientists meet with Maine CDC, May 1, 2014: Drs. Andrew Smith, Joe Graziano, & Gail Wasserman (seated, L to R) and Nancy LoIacono (standing R)

CU SRP scientists Gail Wasserman, Joseph Graziano, and Nancy LoIacono presented findings from their research on the impact of arsenic on children's IQ to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) office in Augusta, Maine on May 1st.

The April issue of the Environmental Health journal published the study's paper, "A cross-sectional study of well water arsenic and child IQ in Maine schoolchildren.". The CU SRP study described in this paper included 272 childrent in grades 3-5 in 3 Maine public school districts. It examined associations between drinking water Arsenic and intelligence as measured by the WISC-IV test. The findings suggest that levels of Water Arsenic equal or greater than 5 mug/L, levels, which are below EPA national standards and occur frequently in some US regions, could pose a threat to child development.

The CU SRP scientists also translated their research findings for the representatives from three of the school districts whose students participated in the study.

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April 1 2014

Director Joseph Graziano receives 2014 SOT Career Achievement Award

David Thomas presenting Joe Graziano with the 2014 Career Achievement Award from the SOT Metal Specialty Section photo credit: Walt Klimecki

Columbia SRP Director Joseph Graziano is the recipient of the 2014 Career Achievement Award from the Metal Specialty Section of the Society of Toxicology. He was honored by his colleagues with a special reception held at the SOT Annual Meeting in Phoenix on March 23rd.

The Career Achievement Award recognizes a senior investigator whose outstanding research accomplishments have substantially advanced the understanding of metals toxicology. This includes depth and breadth of scientific contributions, as well as the significance of those contributions in advancing the field. In addition, recipients have had a major influence in the education, training and mentorship of young scientists in the field of metals toxicology. They have also demonstrated leadership and service to the metals toxicology field. Finally, they have influenced regulatory and risk assessment decisions related to metals toxicology.

Dr. Graziano was selected for his pioneering work on lead an arsenic poisoning in humans, and as a leader in research and education.  He is known for his work on the development of Succimer, the drug that is now widely used to treat childhood lead poisoning, for his work on the effects of environmental lead exposure on child health and development, and for leading a major NIH-funded research program that examines the health effects of exposure to inorganic arsenic.  Dr. Graziano also recently chaired a National Research Council committee that ultimately gave guidance to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regarding their ongoing reassessment of the toxicity of arsenic.

Dr. Graziano's research career has been devoted to understanding the consequences of exposure to metals, both on the molecular and population levels. His work has taken him to Bangladesh, where his current research is aimed at understanding the consequences of arsenic exposure on the Bangladeshi population, and on devising strategies to reduce toxicity and provide arsenic-free drinking water, a problem that spans beyond the political borders of Bangladesh, to much of South Asia, from India to Vietnam and to some states in the U.S. Recent findings that both arsenic and manganese, both elevated in Bangladesh drinking water, are associated with cognitive deficits in children, add urgency to solving this enormous public health and environmental problem.

 


March 27 2014

Chemistry World features van Geen on Well-testing for Arsenic

On March 27th, Chemistry World, an online magazine, published Nina Notman’s article on “Digging deep for safer water.” Notman consults with Alexander van Geen, Associate Director of the Columbia SRP, in her investigation of testing wells for high levels of naturally occurring arsenic in water used for drinking. Van Geen suggests, “A robust, affordable and permanent testing service will work well to remediate this issue in villages with a mix of high- and low-arsenic wells.” However, he and others warn that overtime there is a possibility that deeper aquifers could become polluted due to pumping. This could be the case where there are subsurface layers of clay that release organic matter, causing the reduction of iron oxides and, thus, triggering the release of arsenic. Please see the article for additional details of the impacts, sources, and solutions related to arsenic in drinking water.

citation: Notman, Nina. Digging deep for safer water. Chemistry World online magazine. 27 March 2014.

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February 26 2014

Columbia SRP mourns loss of colleague Mark Becker

On Wednesday, February 26th, 2014, our colleague and good friend Mark Becker died in a multi-vehicle accident on his way to teaching class. Mark, associate director for Geospatial Applications at Columbia’s Earth Institute Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN), has made lasting contributions to the Columbia SRP. In the early years of our program, he taught a week long GIS Training Workshop introducing our scientists and students to the value of the spatial visualization of their data on arsenic contamination in Bangladesh. Mark then went to Dhaka and provided GIS training to build the capacity of Bangladeshi academics and policymakers to help them better understand and address their country’s overwhelming environmental health problems. As part of our Research Translation Core, Mark continued for several years to provide GIS expertise for our science projects both in the US and Bangladesh. He was generous and effective in sharing his knowledge with acclaimed scientists as well as local communities. In 2008, with the exponential growth of administrative, teaching, and other project demands, Mark passed the RTC baton. Tricia Chai-Onn and Kytt MacManus, two very capable geospatial specialists that he had trained and mentored, took his place on the RTC. Still Mark has always been just around the corner for consultation on SRP projects- always with a friendly smile and helpful suggestion. Mark used his great intelligence and extraordinary vision as both a teacher and a steward for the environment- together a powerful and enduring force. He will be greatly missed.

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February 18 2014

Columbia RTC presents NPL Superfund Footprint Mapper to EPA Sustainable and Healthy Communities (SHC) Research Program

SRP Research Translation Core scientists Meredith Golden and Tricia Chai-Onn presented a webinar on the Columbia University Superfund Research Program’s NPL Superfund Footprint Mapper on February 18th as part of the U.S. EPA Sustainable and Healthy Communities (SHC) Seminar Series.

The Superfund Footprint Mapper, funded by NIEHS, permits academic researchers, government regulators, and community stakeholders to visualize critical data about the area and inhabitants near Superfund sites to better assess the potential exposure of nearby vulnerable populations and therefore more effectively prioritize cleanups.  The ATSDR Geographic Research, Analysis and Services Program (GRASP) polygon shapefiles define the boundaries for most of the sites; the remaining sites are designated by EPA CERCLIS point data indicating the site centroid.

The Mapper includes over 32 socio-demographic variables from the US Census (year 2000), including race, education, linguistic isolation, and women of childbearing age. Using US Census Grids population data, these characteristics are aggregated to provide a more accurate profile of populations living within 1 and 4 mile “buffers” surrounding more than 1700 NPL sites across the US and Puerto Rico. School locations with student enrollment are mapped. Environmental data such as Brownfields, fault lines, and Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) data indicate additional potential health risks for residents.

As the Columbia SRP Research Translation Core considers updates and enhancements to the Mapper, the CU SRP RTC invites feedback from those who would like to use the Mapper to better understand, assess, and remediate environmental health issues near Superfund Sites. Please see below links to the NPL Superfund Footprint Mapper, NPL Superfund sites shapefile and point data, and a pdf of the webinar presentation.

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