In the News Archives

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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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.

Related link(s):

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.


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