Archived Announcements

February 1 2015

Columbia SRP Scientists and Partners Contribute to Special STOTEN Arsenic Issue

CU SRP Community Engagement PI Yan Zheng and and USGS Hydrologist Joseph Ayotte together have edited 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 that provides state-of-the-art information 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. The Zheng-Ayotte paper and the special Arsenic section are available now online (see link below).

A total of 5 papers in the STOTEN special issue are also co-authored by Columbia SRP scientists and their partners. They include CU SRP Community Engagement and Research Translation Core scientists Yan Zheng and Sara V. Flanagan, CU project scientist Martin Stute, former trainee Qiang Yang (now Lamont Associate Research Scientist), former CU SRP post doc Beth O’Shea (now Assistant Professor at University San Diego), and government collaborators Joseph Ayotte (USGS, New England Water Science Center New Hampshire-Vermont Office), Robert Marvinney (Maine Geological Survey), Charles Culbertson (USGS , Maine Water Science Center), and Steve Spayd (NJ Geological Survey).

Zhang and Ayotte conclude in their summary that there must be an overall, long-term strategy to reduce exposure to vulnerable populations in regions where levels of arsenic in well-water are high. More consideration is needed to encourage well testing, treatment, access to alternative water sources, and possible implementation of local, state, and regional private well-water regulations.

Zheng, Yan and Joseph D. Ayotte. At the crossroads: Hazard assessment and reduction of health risks from arsenic in private well waters of the northeastern United States and Atlantic Canada. Science of The Total Environment, Volume 505, 1 February 2015, Pages 1237-1247. Available online 18 November 2014, doi:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2014.10.089.

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Announcement type: CU SRP Publications

January 22 2015

CU SRP Student Howe and Scientist Gamble describe differential cleavage of histone H3 which interferes with the measurement of downstream modifications

Histone modifications are increasingly being used as biomarkers of cancer prognosis and survival. They are also novel targets of interest for environmental epidemiology studies. However, Columbia SRP student Caitlin Howe and Project 3 PI Dr. Mary Gamble recently 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. H3 cleavage has been described in many other species, and several groups have hypothesized that this occurs in vivo. Cleavage of H3 has also been observed in human cell lines. However, there have been few reports of H3 cleavage in human biological samples. Ms. Howe and Dr. Gamble emphasize that it remains unclear if the H3 cleavage product identified in human PBMCs is an artifact of sample collection, or if H3 cleavage occurred in vivo, but either conclusion has important implications for molecular epidemiology studies, as the former would necessitate a better understanding of when and why H3 cleavage occurs, so preventive measures can be developed, while the latter suggests that there may be an important biological function of H3 cleavage that merits additional study.

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

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Announcement type: CU SRP Publications

January 1 2015

Association of Epigenetic Modifications with Arsenic Toxicity Point to Potential Pathways for Intervention

Dr. Maria Argos along with other Columbia SRP scientists Mary Gamble, Kristin Harper, Faruque Parvez, Joseph Graziano, and Habibul Ahsan studied the association between arsenic exposure and epigenome-wide white blood cell DNA methylation in a population of 400 Bangladeshi adults. Arsenic exposure was measured in terms of blood and urinary total arsenic concentrations. The study “Gene-Specific Differential DNA Methylation and Chronic Arsenic Exposure in an Epigenome-Wide Association Study of Adults in Bangladesh” was published in the January issue of Environmental Health Perspectives. The authors concluded that there are significant associations between arsenic exposure and gene-specific white blood cell DNA methylation. Thus, epigenetic modifications may be key to arsenic toxicity. Details from this study reveal “specific differentially methylated loci” and, thus, may help target key pathways for future interventions.

Argos M, Chen L, Jasmine F, Tong L, Pierce BL, Roy S, Paul-Brutus R, Gamble MV, Harper KN, Parvez F, Rahman M, Rakibuz-Zaman M, Slavkovich V, Baron JA, Graziano JH, Kibriya MG, Ahsan H.  Gene-specific differential DNA methylation and chronic arsenic exposure in an epigenome-wide association study of adults in Bangladesh.  Environ Health Perspect 2015 Jan; 123(1):64-71.  PMCID: PMC4286273. Doi: 10.1289/ehp.1307884


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Announcement type: CU SRP Publications

September 25 2014

Study at Vineland NJ SF Site Indicates Oxalic Acid Speeds up Release and Removal of Arsenic

Karen Wovkulich with other Columbia SRP scientists recently published an online version of their paper “In situ oxalic acid injection to accelerate arsenic remediation at a superfund site in New Jersey” in Environmental Chemistry. Using a forced gradient approach in this pilot-scale field study at the Vineland Superfund site in NJ, they tested whether adding chemicals to the contaminated aquifer would increase arsenic release and, thus, boost the efficiency of pump and treat remediation. Their findings indicate that adding oxalic acid substantially speeds up the release and removal of arsenic. If this approach could be scaled up to an entire site successfully, then it has the potential to reduce the time that it takes to cleanup sites contaminated with arsenic compared to traditional pump and treat approached. The online peer-reviewed and edited version is available now. The final publication will appear in a later issue of the journal.

Preferred citation:
Wovkulich K, Stute M, Mailloux BJ, Keimowitz AR, Ross J, Bostick B, Sun J, and Chillrud SN. In situ oxalic acid injection to accelerate arsenic remediation at a superfund site in New Jersey. Online Early, Environ. Chem. 2014.

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Announcement type: CU SRP Publications

August 13 2014 to August 15 2014

Diverse Stakeholders Partner to Reduce Arsenic Exposure and Health Effects

Shared Understanding of Challenges and Opportunities to Reduce Environmental and Human Consequences of Arsenic

CU SRP RTC Co-PI Meredith Golden was among forty representatives from diverse public and private sectors who participated in the Human and Environmental Sustainability Summit on Environmental and Human Health Consequences of Arsenic. Held August 13–15 in Salisbury Cove, Maine and hosted by the Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory, the Arsenic Summit was sponsored by Nature’s One, Dartmouth Toxic Metals Superfund Research Program, and the University of Arizona Superfund Research Program. As a member of the Summit’s Consortia Action Team, Golden was designated to identify potential international, national, and regional consortia partners from NGOs, professional organizations, and business groups, as part of the Summit’s charge to act on its goals and objectives for the elimination and management of environmental health issues related to arsenic.

Location: Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory
Announcement type: General Announcements

June 3 2014

NIEHS Arsenic Workshop Panel Discussion Webinar Series features 3 Columbia SRP Scientists

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 have been recorded. The slides, transcripts, and recorded webinars will soon be available from the NIEHS web site (

Sponsored by: NIEHS Superfund Research Program
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Announcement type: CU SRP Announcements

May 26 2014

Norm, Ability, and Attitude Barriers Impede Testing for Arsenic in Maine Private Wells

On May 26, 2014, the journal Science of the Total Environment published online a second paper this year by Columbia's Community Engagement Core scientists Sara Flanagan and Yan Zheng  and study partner Robert Marvinney from the Maine Geological Survey. The paper “Influences on domestic well water testing behavior in a Central Maine area with frequent groundwater arsenic occurrence" analyzes the results from a 2013 household survey responses from over 500 residents of 13 towns in Central Maine. The survey gathers information on the population's well water testing practices and key behaviors which influence testing for arsenic in an area with high well-water dependency and naturally occurring groundwater arsenic.

Whether households tested for arsenic is significantly associated with knowing or believing the following: 1) extended exposure to arsenic increases related health risks, 2) contact information for well-water testing, 3) testing does not take too much time, and 4) neighbors regularly test their water. However, the study also found that well owners often believe that they are at lower risk of arsenic exposure than their neighbors.

The paper concludes that households with private wells in areas with high concentrations of arsenic may not be testing for arsenic due to a combination of norm, ability, and attitude factors and barriers.

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Announcement type: CU SRP Publications

April 30 2014

SRP 2014 Trainee Webinar Series April Session features Columbia SRP Graduate Student Jing Sun

The SRP 2014 Trainee Webinar Series highlights the outstanding work being conducted by graduate and postdoctoral students conducting SRP-funded research. Specifically, this year's series consists of presentations from Poster Award Winners from the previous SRP Annual Meeting. Jing Sun won first prize at the SRP 2013 Annual Meeting for her non-biomedical poster. Her webinar will discuss the research presented in her award-winning poster.

Ms Sun, a Columbia SRP Graduate Student at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, works on Columbia SRP Project 4 (Arsenic, Iron, Sulfur and Organic Carbon Speciation, and Their Impact on Groundwater Arsenic) under the direction of PI Benjamin Bostick and on Project 5  (Application of Enhanced Mitigation Methods for Groundwater As at US Superfund Sites) with PI Steven Chillrud. One approach for remediating arsenic-contaminated aquifers involves stimulating iron mineral transformations that immobilize arsenic in the solid phase through sorption or precipitation. Despite much research, the immobilization strategies are often ineffective, in part because iron host minerals are often sensitive to redox changes. Since magnetite (Fe3O4) is stable under most redox conditions at Superfund sites, Sun has been performing laboratory-scale experiments to examine its potential as a long-term arsenic sink. The study presented here focused on a series of flow-through columns, loaded with reduced aquifer sediments from the Dover Landfill Superfund site. This study was designed to stimulate the formation of magnetite which successfully sequestered arsenic from solution, to test its ability of maintaining arsenic retention under changing conditions, and then to evaluate its potential to immobilize additional arsenic flowing into the system. Sun’s data demonstrate that the adsorption capacity and the stability of solid-phase arsenic greatly increased in amended sediments. These findings suggest that magnetite, produced via simultaneous addition of ferrous iron and nitrate, is a promising target mineral for long-term arsenic remediation.

Peter Wagner, a trainee with the Harvard SRP, will give a talk on RNA-seq Gives Insights into Lead Neurotoxicity in Neural Stem Cells as part of this webinar series. As an undergraduate at Columbia University, Peter worked with CU SRP scientist Brian Mailloux.


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Announcement type: CU SRP Announcements

April 13 2014

Factors Influencing Homeowner Response to Arsenic in Private Drinking Wells

Columbia's Community Engagement Core scientists Sara Flanagan, Qiang Yang, and Yan Zheng collaborating with Robert Marvinney and Robert Johnston of the Maine Geological Survey co-authored the paper, "Dissemination of well water arsenic results to homeowners in Central Maine: Influences on mitigation behavior and continued risksfor exposure". The paper is available online as of April 13th and in press with the journal, Science of the Total Environment.

The researchers have conducted a survey in central Maine of 386 households who were notified 3-7 years earlier that their well water contained arsenic (As) above 10 μg/L. The follow-up survey found that 43% of the households had installed water treatment systems, an additional 30% took other protective actions such as drinking bottled water, and the remaining 27% did not take action. This study looks at socio-demographic and psychological factors that may have influenced which actions/non-actions were taken in response to receiving As test results. Risk perception that the untreated water is not safe to drink and the belief that reducing the water As would increase home value were identified as significant predictors of having taken protective action for As; among those that did act on test results, socioeconomic factors and confidence in one's ability to maintain a treatment system influenced the decision of whether to install a home treatment system or to avoid drinking from the well. Water samples collected from the tap in a subset of these households with treatment systems in place revealed that treatment failure and continued As exposure is a risk even when a homeowner has taken the protective action to install a system.

Suggested citation:

Flanagan, S. V., Marvinney, R. G., Johnston, R. A., Yang, Q., Zheng, Y. Dissemination of well water arsenic results to homeowners in Central Maine: Influences on mitigation behavior and continued risks for exposure. Science of The Total Environment. In Press, Available online 13 April 2014.

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Announcement type: CU SRP Publications

April 1 2014

Water Arsenic >= 5 mug/L pose possible threat to children

Environmental Health has published in its April 2014 edition the Columbia SRP paper,  "A cross-sectional study of well water arsenic and child IQ in Maine schoolchildren." CU SRP Project 2 scientist Gail Wasserman is the lead author. Her Columbia collaborators include Xinhua Liu, Nancy J LoIacono, Jennie Kline, Pam Factor-Litvak, Alexander van Geen, Jacob L Mey, Diane Levy, and Joseph H Graziano. Richard Abramson formerly with Readfield ME Public Schools and Amy Schwartz at the University of New Hampshire also contributed to this paper.

The authors start with a description of past studies. Earlier research by the CU SRP team focused on dose-dependent adverse associations between consumption of arsenic (As)- contaminated water from household wells and intellectual function in young Bangladeshi children. Their  initial work with 6- and 10-year olds, after adjustment for social factors related to intellectual function, indicated that water arsenic concentration (WAs) was significantly negatively related to WPPSI-III and WISC-III Performance (nonverbal ability) scores, but, in most instances, not to other components of intelligence, such as Verbal scores.  A more recent study of Bangladeshi 9-10 year olds, resulted in marginally significant associations between WAs and both Verbal Comprehension and Working Memory scores from the WISC-IV, after adjustments for socio-demographic features and for co-occurring exposure to manganese in drinking wate.  Water Arsenic was unrelated to other aspects of intellectual functioning. These and other studies in different populations have suggested that As exposure may affect early development. However, there has been little consistency in the specific components of child intelligence most affected.

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.


Wasserman Gail A, Liu  Xinhua, LoIacono Nancy J, Kline Jennie, Factor-Litvak  Pam, van Geen  Alexander, Mey Jacob L, Levy  Diane, Abramson  Richard, Schwartz Amy, Graziano Joseph H. A cross-sectional study of well water arsenic and child IQ in Maine schoolchildren. Environmental Health 2014, 13:23 (1 April 2014). DOI: 10.1186/1476-069X-13-23

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Announcement type: CU SRP Publications


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