In the News Archives

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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October 11 2014

CU SRP Scientists Engage Visitors at Lamont Open House

CU SRP Community Engagement and Research Translation scientist Sara V. Flanagan discusses testing and treating well water at the Lamont Open House

Several Columbia Superfund Research Program scientists and students participated in the full day of activities at Columbia's Lamont Open House on Saturday, October 11th. Over 2700 visitors braved cold temperatures and torrential rains to learn about the latest findings and advances in environmental science, making the connection between rational evidence-based knowledge and the difficult choices regarding the planet's stewardship.

Dr. Yan Zheng and Dr. Qiang Yang (former SRP student) along with CU SRP CE researcher Sara Flanagan answered visitors' questions regarding, "What's in your Well Water?" In the United States, 43 million people drink from private wells; however, the government does not require routine testing of these wells. Many of the Open House visitors wanted to know where they could get their water accurately tested and evaluated. Even those who have already tested their water had questions on how often to test, how to interpret the results, why the standards vary from state to state, the most effective treatment options, and when to change the filters and what to do with the old filters. Laws and services vary in the tri-state area. The SRP scientists explained the science and directed well-owners to resources available for their residences. Meanwhile, to increase an understanding of the difficulty in obtaining clean water, SRP scientist Dr. Stuart Braman helped direct the "Race for Safe Water" activity. Even in the rain, kids learned how difficult is it to pump, carry, and deliver enough safe water for daily needs both in Bangladesh and Rockland County NY. Dr. Steve Chilrud also introduced visitors to the latest equipment for measuring personal exposures to air pollutions. In the quest to find the "dirtiest kid at the Open House", Chillrud used sensors to measure the "personal cloud of microscopic particulates" of enthusiastic volunteers.

To a packed auditorium of an older crowd, SRP scientist Dr. Beizhan Yan and collaborator Dr. Martin Stute, demonstrated and discussed the physical and environmental dynamics of gas production by hydraulic fracking. Stute pointed out that the gas industry has proceded quickly, without the benefits of scientific inputs. Now science has to catch-up. There must be a better understanding of the processes in order to ensure effective regulations to protect the environment and human health. Across campus, under the protection of a tent and raingear, CU SRP RTC scientist Meredith Golden helped students, parents, and retirees use the Columbia SRP's online interactive NPL Superfund Site Mapper and think about the location and potential exposures from hazardous waste sites in close proximity of schools, residences, and natural hazards such as storm surges and fault lines.

There were over 55 exhibits and 20 lectures reflecting Lamont's global multi-disciplinary coverage of the origin, evolution, and future of our planet. Visitors received flyers and fact sheets on the Columbia NIEHS Superfund Research Program.

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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