Archived Announcements

September 11 2013

Nature publication: Retardation of arsenic transport through a Pleistocene aquifer

Benjamin Bostick and Nguyen-Ngoc Mai at a high-arsenic well near village of Van Phuc (credit: Charles Harvey, MIT)

Nature published on September 11, 2013 a paper by CU SRP scientists Alexander van Geen, Benjamin Bostik, Kathleen Radloff, Zahid Aziz, Jacob L. Mey along with several of their collaborators on "Retardation of arsenic transport through a Pleistocene aquifer". Here they present findings from their study on the contamination of a Pleistocene aquifer near Hanoi, Vietnam. Their study reveals that "changes in groundwater flow conditions and the redox state of the aquifer sands induced by groundwater pumping caused the lateral intrusion of arsenic contamination more than 120 metres from a Holocene aquifer into a previously uncontaminated Pleistocene aquifer.We also find that arsenic adsorbs onto the aquifer sands and that there is a 16–20-fold retardation in the extent of the contamination relative to the reconstructed lateral movement of groundwater over the same period. Our findings suggest that arsenic contamination of Pleistocene aquifers in south and southeast Asia as a consequence of increasing levels of groundwater pumping may have been delayed by the retardation of arsenic transport."

The research presented here was fund by the US National Science Foundation and the NIEHS Superfund Research Program.

Additional authors include Vi Mai Lan, Nguyen-Ngoc Mai, Phu Dao Manh and Pham Hung Viet, of the Hanoi University of Science, Mason Stahl and Charles Harvey from MIT, Beth Weinman from Vanderbilt University along with researchers from Anchor QEA, Eawag Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology,Institute of Geochemistry and Petrology, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology.

Suggested citation:
van Geen, A., Bostick, B., Thi Kim Trang, P., et al. 2013. Retardation of arsenic transport through a Pleistocene aquifer. Nature 501, 204–207 doi:10.1038/nature12444 (onine 12 September 2013).

Sponsored by: NIEHS Superfund Research Program and National Science Foundation
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Announcement type: CU SRP Publications

July 30 2013 to August 1 2013

EPA Community Involvement Training Conference

The EPA Office of Water, EPA Region 1, and the EPA Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response are hosting the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) 13th Community Involvement Training Conference which will be held at the Westin Boston Waterfront Hotel Boston, Massachusetts July 30-August 1, 2013. The goal of this conference is both inform and train EPA staff, Agency stakeholders, and partners who plan and implement environmental community involvement and public communication, education and stewardship programs.

Registration for attending in person the EPA Community Involvement Training Conference is now open (see below for link) and will close on July 17th. Registration for online streaming sessions of the conference will be available later in June.

Location: Boston, Massachusetts
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Announcement type: General Announcements

July 29 2013 to July 31 2013

Environmental Health Disparities & Environmental Justice Meeting

On July 29-31, 2013 the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) in partnership with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) , National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD) , Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) , Office of Minority Health (OMH) , Indian Health Service (IHS) will host a meeting focused on identifying priorities for action to address environmental health disparities (EHD) and environmental justice (EJ). This meeting will take place at the NIEHS Campus at Research Triangle Park in North Carolina. The deadline for submitting poster abstracts is July 5th and for hotel reservations, July 7th. Online meeting registration is now closed. Please contact Whitney Freberg at 919-794-4700 or "whitney. freberg at" to secure a place on the waiting list for this meeting.

The meeting will bring together researchers, community residents, healthcare professionals, and federal partners committed to addressing EHD and EJ, in particular the grantees funded by NIEHS, EPA, NIMHD, CDC, OMH, and IHS. For the purposes of this meeting, EHD is defined as the unique contribution of the environment to health disparities.

The main goals of this meeting will be to:

  1. Acknowledge and build off past meetings that have identified historical EHD & EJ issues
  2. Prioritize research areas to ensure the most vulnerable populations' issues are addressed
  3. Identify emerging EHD or EJ issues (new exposures that have not been considered in the past that may lead to new or additional health disparities) and,
  4. Develop a set of priorities that enables participants to set multi-year plans to address the most critical EHD and EJ issues

The meeting will include presentations, small group discussions, demonstrations, and poster sessions that lead to the development of an action agenda. Presenters will highlight challenges, emerging opportunities, and strategies to build upon existing efforts that bring community groups together with researchers. Specifically, the meeting will highlight and promote best practices of current and past EHD and EJ projects, and identify emerging issues and new directions in research, communication, capacity building, training, and evaluation. An additional goal of the meeting will be to foster new partnerships at the local, state, regional, tribal, and national levels. The meeting is also intended to bring together new partners to the discussion of environmental health disparities. Such partners could include: anthropologists, sociologists, and economists as well as those with expertise in law, policy, analysis and evaluation.

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Announcement type: General Announcements

July 1 2013

NIEHS SRP 16th Annual Wetterhahn Award

The SRP has established Annual Wetterhahn Award to recognize an outstanding graduate student or post-doctoral researcher that best demonstrates the qualities of scientific excellence exhibited by Dr. Karen Wetterhahn, who served as the Program Director of the Dartmouth College SRP from 1995 until she died in 1997. She was a leader in conducting research on how metals initiate cancer and other metal-induced human diseases at the molecular level. Dr. Wetterhahn passed awayas a result of dimethylmercury poisoning caused by the accidental spill of a few drops of the chemical on her latex glove-covered hand.

The award is open to ALL SRP trainees to apply (an SRP trainee is either funded directly by an SRP grant (P42 or R01) or is conducting research or other activities funded by SRP). SRP Center Directors, Project Leaders, and Core Leaders can nominate students and researchers.

Applications will be accepted between July 1st and August 1st. Please see links below for the Wetterhahn web page and application guidelines.

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Announcement type: General Announcements

July 1 2013

Blood glutathione redox status and global methylation of peripheral blood mononuclear cell DNA in Bangladeshi adults

The July issue of Epigenetics will include a paper by Mailman graduate student Megan Niedzwiecki and her Columbia SRP colleagues entitled “Blood glutathione redox status and global methylation of peripheral blood mononuclear cell DNA in Bangladeshi adults”. In this article, the researchers investigated the relationship between oxidative stress and DNA methylation in humans.   Oxidative stress and DNA methylation are metabolically linked:  depletion of glutathione (GSH), the body’s primary antioxidant, might lead to depletion of S-adenosylmethionine (SAM), the universal methyl donor for methylation reactions.  Additionally, many enzymes involved in DNA methylation show altered activity under oxidized cellular conditions., The Columbia SRP scientists tested the hypothesis that a more oxidized blood GSH redox status is associated with decreased global peripheral blood mononuclear cell (PBMC) DNA methylation in a sample of Bangladeshi adults. They found that a more oxidized blood GSH redox state was associated with decreased global DNA methylation, but blood SAM was not a mediator of this association. Future research should explore mechanisms through which cellular redox status might influence global DNA methylation as this may represent an important pathway leading towards both carcinogenic and non-carcinogenic mechanisms of action of arsenic. Given that redox status and DNA methylation are both potentially modifiable through nutritional and other interventions, a greater mechanistic understanding of these observations could ultimately have therapeutic implications.

Suggested citation:

Niedzwiecki M, Hall MN, Liu X, Oka J, Harper KN, Slavkovich V, Ilievski V, Levy D, van Geen A, Mey JL, Alam S, Siddique AB, Parvez F, Graziano JH, and Gamble MV. Blood glutathione redox status and global methylation of peripheral blood mononuclear cell DNA in Bangladeshi adults. Epigenetics 2013:8(7):730-738. Published Online: May 17, 2013.

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Announcement type: CU SRP Publications

June 21 2013

EHP Publication: Chronic Arsenic Exposure and Blood Glutathione and Glutathione Disulfide Concentrations in Bangladeshi Adults

Exposure to arsenic (As) has been shown to deplete glutathione (GSH), the primary intracellular antioxidant, and induce oxidative stress in In vitro and rodent studies. Glutathione disulfide (GSSG) is produced after GSH donates an electron to reactive oxygen species.  The primary objective of this study was to test whether As exposure was associated with decreases in GSH and increases in GSSG, i.e., a more oxidized intracellular environment. Lead author Dr. Hall and her colleagues also investigated whether As exposure was associated with reductions in cysteine (Cys) and increases in cystine (CySS); Cys and CySS are the predominant thiol/disulfide redox couple found in human plasma.  The authors observed inverse associations of As exposure with GSH and Cyss, but no associations with GSSG and Cys and concluded that “The observed associations are consistent with the hypothesis that As may influence concentrations of GSH and other non-protein sulfhydryls through binding and irreversible loss in bile and/or possibly in urine.”

Hall MN, Niedzwiecki M, Liu X, Harper KN, Alam S, Slavkovich V, Ilievski V, Levy D, Siddique S, Parvez F, Mey JL, van Geen A, Graziano J, and Gamble MV. Chronic Arsenic Exposure and Blood Glutathione and Glutathione Disulfide Concentrations in Bangladeshi Adults. Environmental Health Perspectives Advance Publication: 21 June 2013.

Announcement type: CU SRP Publications

June 10 2013

Two Potential Perils in Cancer Studies Involving DNA Methylation Array Analysis

The June publication of Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers & Prevention features a paper by Kristin Harper, Bradilyn Peters, and Mary Gamble on “Batch Effects and pathway analysis: Two potential perils in cancer studies involving DNA methylation array analysis”. It includes some recent findings from their research under the Columbia Superfund Research Program’s Project 3, Impact of Nutrition on Arsenic-Induced Epigenetic Dysregulation.

DNA methylation microarrays have become an increasingly popular means of studying the role of epigenetics in cancer, although the methods used to analyze these arrays are still being developed and existing methods are not always widely disseminated among microarray users.

Harper, Peters, and Gamble investigated two problems likely to confront DNA methylation microarray users: (i) batch effects and (ii) the use of widely available pathway analysis software to analyze results. First, DNA taken from individuals exposed to low and high levels of drinking water arsenic were plated twice on Illumina's Infinium 450 K HumanMethylation Array, once in order of exposure and again following randomization. Second, they conducted simulations in which random CpG sites were drawn from the 450 K array and subjected to pathway analysis using Ingenuity's IPA software.

They concluded that the analyses illustrated the pitfalls of not properly controlling for chip-specific batch effects as well as using pathway analysis software created for gene expression arrays to analyze DNA methylation array data. The in silico pathway analysis experiment yielded spurious but significant findings due to over-representation of CpGs on the 450K array chip that were associated with genes involved in pathways linked to cancer, developmental disorders, cellular development, cell morphology, embryological development, and more.

Suggested citation

Harper KN, Peters BA, Gamble MV. Batch Effects and pathway analysis: Two potential perils in cancer studies involving DNA methylation array analysis. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev 2013; 22(6); 1–9. Published OnlineFirst April 29, 2013; doi:10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-13-0114.

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Announcement type: CU SRP Publications

May 10 2013

Arsenic, Methylation, and Cardiovascular Risk-- Online Publication in EHP

On May 10th Environmental Health Perspectives provided an advance publication of the paper, "A Prospective Study of Arsenic Exposure, Arsenic Methylation Capacity, and Risk of Cardiovascular Disease in Bangladesh" by Dr. Yu Chen, Associate Professor at NYU Langone Medical Center and her Columbia SRP colleagues. They carried out "a case-cohort study of 369 incident fatal and non-fatal cases of CVD, including 148 stroke cases and 211 cases of heart disease, and a subcohort of 1,109 subjects randomly selected from the 11,224 participants in the Health Effects of Arsenic Longitudinal Study." Their overall conclusion is that exposure to arsenic in drinking water together with reduced arsenic methylation capacity is associated with increased heart disease risk.

Suggested citation:

Chen Y, Wu F, Liu M, Parvez F, Slavkovich V, Eunus M, Ahmed A, Segers S, Argos M, Islam T, Rakibuz-Zaman M, Hasan R, Sarwar G, Levy D, Graziano J, Ahsan H. A Prospective Study of Arsenic Exposure, Arsenic Methylation Capacity, and Risk of Cardiovascular Disease in Bangladesh. Environmental Health Perspectives (tba). doi:10.1289/ehp.1205797 Online publication: May 10, 2013.


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Announcement type: CU SRP Publications

April 19 2013

NYS DEC looking for Student Volunteers

Community-Based Bioremediation ProjectVolunteer scope of work, Spring/Summer 2013

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC), Division of Environmental Remediation, is interested in how we can help community groups to address environmental contamination in their neighborhoods through community-based bioremediation projects.  The term “bioremediation” is used here to describe any low-intensity, natural method to remove, stabilize, prevent exposure to, or stimulate breakdown of contaminants. 

To advance this effort, we are seeking a Volunteer to help 1) develop resources for interested groups; and 2) work with one or two community groups to plan, implement, and document results of a pilot project.

Potential tasks would include:

  • Create survey for community groups and other relevant stakeholders to gain understanding of interest in community-based bioremediation, and identify goals, feasibility, challenges, etc.
  • Develop webpage of FAQs for community-based bioremediation, with answers and resources, for DEC website.  FAQs should incorporate questions/challenges identified in survey.  Development would require research on a range of topics, including technical aspects of bioremediation methods, bioavailability of various contaminants, resources for soil sampling and analysis, and urban gardening concerns.
  • Volunteer will work with community group(s) to:
    •  Develop a plan for soil sampling that considers the previous use of the property, potential contaminants, budget, etc.
    • Review analytical results and compare to available guidance values
    • Research, analyze, and make recommendations on potential bioremediation strategies based on identified contamination, desired future use of the property, budget, and health/safety factors
    • Develop plan for implementing, maintaining, and monitoring effectiveness of selected bioremediation strategy
    • Throughout project, document process, lessons learned, challenges, etc.

Preferred Qualifications of Volunteer:

  • Strong communication skills
  • Background in environmental science, engineering or policy. Volunteer will ideally have some technical understanding of environmental assessment and remediation, although a technical degree is not required.
  • Website development a plus

Please note there is no compensation for this work. It is for 1-2 days per week, but with a flexible schedule. Volunteers would be working out of the DEC office in Long Island City, 47-40 21st Street. If you have any questions or would like to apply, please contact Dana Kaplan, <>, NYSDEC Environmental Engineer.



Announcement type: General Announcements

April 19 2013

GSA Northeastern Meeting

The 48th Annual Geological Society of America Northeastern section meeting took place on March 17-19, 2013 at the Mount Washington Hotel, Bretton Woods, New Hampshire (link)

The session on Naturally Occurring Contaminants in Groundwater Used for Water Supply in the Northeastern United States was organized by Yan Zheng, Queens College, CUNY and Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University, Palisade, NY and Joe Ayotte, United States Geological Survey, Pembroke, NH. Yan Zheng chaired the session. Two papers from the Columbia SRP project were presented, and the session was attended by five current and former members of Columbia’s SRP team: Yan Zheng and Sara Flanagan from the Community Engagement Core, Stuart Braman from the Research Translation Core and Qiang Yang and Beth O’Shea reporting on work done on the former Project 5 – Mobilization of Natural Arsenic in Groundwater.

Qiang Yang began the session with his presentation on Hydrogeochemical Control of Arsenic, Uranium and Radon in Domestic Wells from Bedrock Aquifers in Central Maine.  The next four papers extended the theme with a look at arsenic occurrence in metamorphosed bedrock units in Maine by Beth O’Shea, in gold-bearing quartz veins in western Ireland by Martin Gilligan, in the Newark and Gettysburg basins in Pennsylvania by Johanna M.T.Blake and in pyrite in Taconic slates in southwestern Vermont  by Helen Mango.

A paper on water quality in Unity Maine wells by Lois K. Ongley served as the transition to a presentation on Arsenic in Nova Scotia’s Private Drinking Water Wells: Reducing Risk Exposure through Community-based Knowledge-To-Action Interventions by Heather Chappells. The final presentation, Mitigating Arsenic Exposure from Maine’s Private Drinking Water Wells By Targeting Behavioral Factors Through Community Engagement by Sara Flanagan focused on the Columbia Community Engagement Core survey of households in Maine with the goal of understanding psychological conditions necessary for adopting testing and treatment behaviors.  The improved understanding will then guide the design of community level interventions.  Because the Columbia CEC and Nova Scotia projects are addressing the same issues RTC is working with in New Jersey, the meeting provided a great opportunity to exchange ideas and lay the groundwork for possible future collaboration.

An informal evening gathering hosted by Yan Zheng provided an opportunity for discussions with the USGS scientist who were prevented from participating in the morning session due to the sequestration. In addition to session presenters, Columbia CEC collaborators Dr. Robert Marvinney and Mr. R. Johnston from Maine Geological Survey joined the evening conversation. A special issue is planned for Science of the Total Environment to highlight the risks arsenic poses to communities in Northeastern United States and Canada.

Announcement type: General Announcements


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