January 2022

Dear EHS Family,

I sincerely hope everyone had a happy and healthy holiday break and has been able to enjoy the start of the new year surrounded by family and friends. The fall semester finished strong, and in this time of new beginnings, we look forward to all of the amazing work that is to come this year. 2022 is uniquely special as it marks the centennial year of the Mailman School of Public Health, and I'm excited to celebrate this monumental achievement with you all. I especially look forward to us channeling our renewed energy into continuing to learn, grow, and collaborate with each other to better the future of public health!  

Wishing everyone a positive start to the semester in the coming weeks, and nothing but the best from 2022.  

Happy New Year to all!

Andrea Baccarelli, MD, PhD, MPH
Leon Hess Professor and Chair
Department of Environmental Health Sciences


EHS Highlights

 

 

 

 

BAN OF HEATING OIL #6 EFFECTIVE IN REDUCING AIR POLLUTION

In 2012, New York City established the Clean Heat Program to eliminate the use of residual heating oil which had been identified as a major source of air pollution in the City and linked to multiple adverse health outcomes, including cardiovascular disease. In a study led by Marianthi-Anna Kioumourtzoglou conducted at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health with colleagues at Drexel University, researchers evaluated the program outcomes, including the air pollution reductions between 2012 and 2016, using multiple data sources and rigorous model diagnostics. 

The results showed that the heating oil #6 ban (completed by 2016) was effective in reducing air pollution. The study is the first to provide a framework to evaluate the impact of the Clean Heat Program since it was implemented. The findings are published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

View the full story on our website.

Co-authors include: Marianthi-Anna Kioumourtzoglou, Lyuou Zhang, Elizabeth Gibson, Frederica Perera, Daniel Carrión, and Kimberly Burke, Columbia Mailman School; Mike He (formerly Columbia Mailman), Mt. Sinai; Gina Lovasi, Jane Clougherty, and Dustin Fry, Drexel University.


 

 

 

Best wishes to Dr. Deliang Tang in retirement!

We want to congratulate Deliang on such an inspiring and successful career in his dedication to important environmental health research. He is a cherished member of the EHS family, and we wish him a wonderful retirement. 

In the words of Dr. Ricky Perera:
"Tang joined my group as a post-doc, having earned an MD in China and a further degree in nutrition after arriving in the US. He quickly showed his brilliance and ability to solve just about any problem. I had the pleasure of advising him on his post-doctoral project on biomarkers in lung cancer and working with him later when he led groundbreaking studies in China. That work showed the harm to children from prenatal exposure to coal-burning pollution and is credited with important policy changes in to lower air pollution levels in China. Tang also established and directed the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health Molecular Epidemiology Lab for almost 30 years. He is an innovator, a kind and valued colleague and friend."

From Dr. Julie Herbstman:
"Both Ricky and I have traveled to China with Tang a number of times. In China, he was able to build collaborations, break down cultural barriers, and navigate the complicated tasks involved in conducting international research.  The environmental health science research we conducted in China would have been completely and entirely impossible had he not been there to "read the room", cut through traffic (both literally and figuratively), and navigate other logistic and scientific barriers."  

Perhaps lesser known:  Tang is the ultimate "renaissance man" in the sense that honestly, he can do anything.  In addition to being an incredibly skilled laboratory and environmental health scientist, he has a huge appreciation for history, for art, for music, and for culture. He can build just about anything with his bare hands.  I really can't wait to see what he will create in his retirement. 


Exposomics Workshop: Environmental Factors in Human Disease

 

 

 

 

 

Columbia's Precision Medicine Initiative and the Mailman School co-hosted a full-day Exposomics Symposia. Attendees joined in-person and live stream to hear Columbia-based experts explore the utility of using the exposome framework (high-resolution mass spectrometry, environmental epigenetics) to provide a comprehensive analysis of complex exposure in human samples. The keynote speaker was Rick Woychik, Director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. Thank you to all the EHS faculty members that participated in such a great day of science!


Spotlight Series

 

 

 

 

 

Above, clockwise from left to right: Abhisek Kar and Georgette Owusu-Amankwah, Misbath Daouda and Georgette Owusu-Amankwah (top right), and Drs. Darby Jack and Steve Chillrud (bottom right).

EHS Spotlight: Dr. Darby Jack and team

Darby Jack and his team focus on household energy transitions from both a health and a policy perspective. His group at Columbia includes postdocs Abhishek Kar and Georgette Owusu-Amankwah and PhD students Misbath Daouda and Danielle Medgyesi. He has active collaborations with investigators in the US, Ghana, Ecuador, Kenya, Ethiopia, and Uganda. 

In Ghana, Darby co-leads efforts to better characterize the health impacts of household air pollution exposure and to build the evidence base for efficient and equitable energy policy. Current health research focuses on a birth cohort - the GRAPHS (Ghana Randomized Air Pollution and Health Study) cohort - which follows approximately 700 children, currently age 8. Currently, Darby is collaborating with Alison Lee from Sinai, Steve Chillrud from LDEO, and Kwaku Poku Asante from Kintampo Health Research Centre (KHRC) to assess the effect of household air pollution on lung function trajectories in children. 

Policy work in Ghana is built around the Columbia World Projects funded Combating Household Air Pollution (CHAP) effort. CHAP is a two-phase project designed to help the Government of Ghana achieve household energy policy goals. In the first phase, which is currently underway, Darby, along with collaborators at KHRC and Kelsey Jack at UC Santa Barbara, lead a series of behavioral and engineering assessments. In Phase II, set to launch mid 2023, the team will carry out a large-scale household energy policy intervention study. 

In Ecuador, Darby collaborates with Alfredo Valarezo (Universidad San Francisco de Quito) and Carlos Gould (Stanford University) on a series of studies evaluating the air pollution exposure consequences of Ecuador’s unique household energy subsidies, with a particular focus on conversions from gas cooking to electric induction. In East Africa Darby is working with Kiros Berhane (Biostatistics), John Samet (Colorado School of Public Health), and collaborators from Ethiopia, Kenya, and Uganda to develop Phase II of the East Africa GEOHealth Hub. Finally, Darby is part of a Columbia-wide team (the Columbia Clean Air Toolbox) that works with the USAID-funded Clean Air Catalyst to address air pollution in Indore, India, and in Jakarta, Indonesia.

Darby welcomes new collaborations!


Staff Spotlight: Fernando Luque

 

 

 

 

 

Fernando earned a BA from the University of Florida and MA from CUNY in Anthropology where he examined yeast evolutionary ecology and domestication. At Columbia University, he served the Chair and faculty in EHS, and played an integral role in the core functions within EHS. In 2018, he helped implement a pediatric asthma pilot study post-hurricane Irma and Maria linking clinical professionals and public health students with an environmental justice organization in Puerto Rico.

Fernando has transitioned into a new role within EHS to be the Project Coordinator of the new R25 Training Grant (MPIs Baccarelli, Miller, Ionita-Laza) titled "Careers through mentoring and training in omics and data for early-stage investigators (Career MODE)."

Thank you Fernando for all of your incredibly hard work in the department over the last several years and congratulations on your new role!


EHS in the News

Andrea Baccarelli, Darby Jack, Marianthi-Anna Kioumourtzoglou, Jeff Shaman, Cecilia Sorensen, Lewis Ziska
Climate in Crisis, Report Says

A recent article reported on the public health challenges posed by climate change that are already threatening populations worldwide, and how Mailman's programs are training the next generation of leaders to fight back. EHS' Climate and Health program and the Global Consortium on Climate and Health Education (GCCHE) are spotlighted.

 

Frederica Perera, Julie Herbstman, and Deliang Tang
The True Measure

A recent Mailman article reports on the research being done that is helping to ensure longer, more robust lives for the most vulnerable populations. Highlighting EHS' Children's Center, Ricky Perera notes, “The idea was not to have this science going into a black hole in some peer-reviewed publication, but rather to inspire real-world change.”

 

Jeffrey Shaman
Why Is Omicron So Contagious?

An article featured in Scientific American reported that the new coronavirus variant may be better than other versions at avoiding human immune defenses—but that ability may change in different countries. “We went right from the ancestral Alpha variant to Delta,” Dr. Shaman says. “And those sorts of things may change how much of the population is now susceptible to this new Omicron variant. We’ll just have to see how this settles out over time.”

 


Papers of the Month

Take a minute to read one of the many fantastic publications by our faculty, students, and staff. Faculty names are bolded:

The association of arsenic exposure and arsenic metabolism with all-cause, cardiovascular and cancer mortality in the Strong Heart Study.
Kuo CC, Balakrishnan P, Gribble MO, Best LG, Goessler W, Umans JG, Navas-Acien A. Environ Int. 2021 Dec 7;159:107029. doi: 10.1016/j.envint.2021.107029. Online ahead of print.PMID: 34890900 

Evaluating the Impact of the Clean Heat Program on Air Pollution Levels in New York City.
Zhang L, He MZ, Gibson EA, Perera F, Lovasi GS, Clougherty JE, Carrión D, Burke K, Fry D, Kioumourtzoglou MA. Environ Health Perspect. 2021 Dec;129(12):127701. doi: 10.1289/EHP9976. Epub 2021 Dec 8.PMID: 34878319

Socioeconomic Disparities in Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 Serological Testing and Positivity in New York City.
Lieberman-Cribbin W, Galanti M, Shaman J. Open Forum Infect Dis. 2021 Oct 17;8(12):ofab534. doi: 10.1093/ofid/ofab534. eCollection 2021 Dec.PMID: 34877365