Project Title:  Hair Care Product Use Among Women of Color: A Northern Manhattan Intervention
Principal Investigator:  Jasmine McDonald, PhD, Assistant Professor of Epidemiology
Co-Investigators:  Lubna Ahmed, MPH, WE ACT; Emily S Barrett, PhD, Rutgers; Lauren Houghton, PhD, Epidemiology; Adana A.M. Llanos, PhD, MPH, Rutgers; Kurt Pennell, PhD, Brown; Mary Beth Terry, PhD, Epidemiology; Desiree A.H. Walker, Young Survival Coalition; Ashanda Saint Jean, PH/Allen Pavilion.
Year:  2020
Award Amount:  $35,000

Abstract:  Recent trends suggest a convergence in the incidence of breast cancer (BC) rates in black and white women due to the stability in incidence trends in white women compared to the steady annual increase in black women. Endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) have been posited as potential environmental factors that could affect BC risk; especially when exposed during periods of time when the breast tissue is undergoing great change (i.e., pregnancy, postpartum). Given that Black and Hispanic women (hereafter, women of color) are often diagnosed with BC at younger ages and at more advanced stages of disease, it is important to examine EDC exposure patterns that differ by race and ethnicity. One focus has been on EDC exposure through personal care products, where studies have demonstrated differences in hair care product (HCP) use by race. HCPs are associated with earlier age at puberty and increased BC risk. Unfortunately, few studies examine HCP-associated EDC exposure across the pregnancy/postpartum periods and no study has implemented a behavioral intervention. An intervention during pregnancy on EDC exposures and HCPs could have intergenerational health implications. We propose an educational intervention for prenatal women of color in Northern Manhattan on HCPs and EDC exposures with an assessment of behavioral change via self-report and urinary phthalate concentrations.

Project Title:  The Effects of Arsenic Exposure on Anti-microbial Resistance and the Human Microbiome
Principal investigator:  Anne-Catrin Uhlemann, MD, PhD, Associate Professor of Medicine
Co-Investigator:  Muhammad Faruque Parvez, DrPH, Research Scientist, Dept of EHS
Year:  2020
Award Amount:  $35,000

Abstract:  Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is emerging as a global public health concern. Antibiotic overuse by humans and its misuse in agriculture in part account for the recent increase in AMR worldwide. Metals such as arsenic also have antimicrobial activities. Resistance genes frequently colocalize with AMR genes. Recent studies in mouse models suggest that exposure to arsenic (As) may lead to selection of AMR pathobionts as well as have a direct antimicrobial effect on microbiota. The primary goal of this pilot study is to establish preliminary data in support of our hypothesis that As exposure is an important determinant of AMR emergence. We propose to conduct a pilot study (n=75) in the Health Effects of Arsenic Longitudinal Study (HEALS) cohort in Bangladesh. This country has naturally high As exposure and relatively high levels of AMR. We will enroll children and adults from the same family with high and low As exposures and obtain nasal swabs and fecal samples to determine the burden of AMR and the presence of As resistance genes at these two major human pathobiont colonization sites. Combined, these data will be critical to (1) establishing a study population with high AMR (children vs adults); (2) determining if gut or nasal or both sites demonstrate an As-AMR relationship; and (3) providing effect size estimates for metagenomic sequencing for a subsequent R01 application.

Project Title:  Socioeconomic Disadvantage, CVD, Air Pollution and COVID-19 Burden Among Black and Hispanic Mothers
Principal Investigator:  Sarah Tom, PhD, Assistant Professor of Neurology and Epidemiology
Co-Investigators:  Julie Herbstman, PhD, EHS; Pam Factor-Litvak, PhD, Epidemiology; Marianthi Kioumourtzoglou, PhD, EHS; Amy Margolis, PhD, Medical Psychology; Eliza Miller, MD, Neurology; Parisa Tehranifar, PhD, Epidemiology.
Year:  2020
Award Amount:  $35,000

Abstract:  The COVID-19 pandemic in New York City has exposed social and racial/ethnic disparities in the risk of infection and psychological and financial consequences, independent of infection. While it is unclear whether the long-term sequelae of COVID-19 infection will differ by sex, it is expected that the indirect effects of COVID-19, such as changes to employment and caregiving, will have greater negative consequences for women. Further, the roles of underlying chronic disease and environmental factors on COVID-19 outcomes are unknown. In this pilot, we seek to extend work at the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health (CCCEH) by examining health outcomes among mothers. We will leverage ongoing data collection efforts on longitudinal family financial situation and mother’s current health with newly collected COVID-19-related data and existing air pollution data. This pilot would allow Principal Investigator Dr. Sarah Tom, an assistant professor with a joint appointment in Neurology and Epidemiology, to incorporate physio/chemical environmental determinants for the first time in her life course work. Pilot results will form the foundation for future study of the roles of COVID-19 infection, COVID-19-related psychological stress and trajectories in financial instability, cardiovascular and chronic disease, and air pollution exposure with long-term physiological and psychological outcomes.

Project Title:  The Identifying Neurotoxin Mixtures in a Well-Characterized Sporadic ALS Cluster and Confirming Their Pathomechanistic Link to ALS
Co-Principal Investigators:  Diane Re, PhD, Assistant Professor of EHS and Beizhan Yan, PhD, Lamont Associate Research Professor
Co-Investigators:  Elijah Stommel, MD, PhD, Dartmouth; Nathan Torbick, PhD, Director Applied Geosolutions
Year:  2020
Award Amount:  $35,000

Abstract:  Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a fatal and incurable neurological disease with unknown causes in 90% of cases. The importance of environmental exposure in ALS etiology is supported by some studies that found an increased risk of ALS based on common exposure (e.g., metals and pesticides). However, many studies contradict each other, most likely because humans are exposed to a huge variety of insults, and not one, but several environmental factors can tilt the scale from health to disease in ALS. One way our collaborator Dr. Stommel tried to address the issue of exposure variability is through the identification of “geographical clusters” of ALS patients. These are locations with abnormally high numbers of ALS patients that were found near lakes with recurrent harmful algal blooms (HAB) in Dr. Stommel’s studies. Thanks to a large collection of samples archived by Dr. Stommel, in this Pilot Project we will carry out for the first time: 1) a thorough screening of HAB toxin “mixtures” in environmental and human samples from one well characterized ALS cluster for which we can retrace chronology of exposure with lake sediment cores and satellite images, and 2) a confirmation of the capacity of these toxin mixtures to trigger ALS pathogenesis in a relevant human cell model of ALS. It is critical to study spatial ALS clusters as deeply as possible in order to understand their origin and to promote prevention.

Project Title:  Neurodevelopmental and behavioral toxicity of prenatal acetaminophen exposure in mice
Principal Investigator:  Brandon Pearson, PhD, Assistant Professor of Environmental Health Sciences
Co-Investigators:  Mu Yang, PhD, Assistant Professor of Neurobiology (in the Institute for Genomic Medicine and Psychiatry) at CUIMC; Brennan Baker, EHS Doctoral Candidate
Year:  2020
Award Amount: $35,000

Abstract:  As the only recommended over-the-counter drug to treat pain and fever during pregnancy, acetaminophen (aka Tylenol®) is one of the most commonly used drugs by pregnant women. Up to 50% of women report using acetaminophen during pregnancy. Multiple studies have shown an association between prenatal acetaminophen and ADHD, yet the drug is not contraindicated during pregnancy. Recommendations have not changed owing to limitations of prior studies, including potential confounding by environmental exposures, genetic predisposition, and lack of mechanistic insight. We will test the effect of prenatal acetaminophen on ADHD-like behaviors in mice. An animal model permits us to randomize pregnant mice to a precisely controlled acetaminophen dose or to control conditions, thus eliminating the possibility of pretreatment confounding. We further propose an investigation into potential mechanisms underlying the relationship between prenatal acetaminophen and ADHD: oxidative stress, DNA damage, and thyroid hormone signaling. We will test the associations of maternal acetaminophen exposure during pregnancy with both maternal and fetal thyroid hormone concentrations in blood serum, and measures of maternal and offspring oxidative stress and finally, DNA damage in the fetal brain.

Project Title:  Assessment of Mercury and Other Metals in Biospecimens from the Strong Heart Family Study
Principal Investigators: Ana Navas-Acien, MD, PhD, Professor of Environmental Health Sciences and Anne Nigra, EHS Doctoral Student
Co-Investigators: Marcia O’Leary and Joe Yracheta, Missouri Breaks Industries Research Inc. (MBIRI), Eagle Butte, SD
Year:  2018-2019
Award Amount: $23,000

Abstract:  Research in The Strong Heart Study (SHS), a major population-based cohort of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and related risk factors in American Indians (AIs) living in communities in Arizona, North/South Dakota, and Oklahoma, has established that AIs have elevated exposure to arsenic, cadmium, uranium, and other toxic metals. CVD and diabetes are epidemic in AI communities, and data from our parent study (R01HL090863) determined that arsenic and cadmium exposure are important risk factors for incident CVD in the SHS. Community members and researchers from a SHS center in South Dakota are concerned about elevated inorganic and elemental mercury (Hg) expousure from mearby coal-fired power plants. Prior limited environmental Hg monitoring in air and soil supports exposure might be elevated. The proposed study will measure total Hg in blood and urine samples from a random-stratified sample of 150 participants in the Strong Heart Family Study (SHFS), an ongoing family-based extension of the original SHS cohort. Data resulting from this pilot study will be used as preliminary data in future R01 grants to evaluate Hg exposure and its health consequences in the SHS and SHFS cohorts. Because this population has low seafood intake, this is an ideal setting to study the health implications, including cardiovascular, immune and neurological effects, of coal-fired power plant-related Hg exposure, a major concern for many communities around the US and worldwide.

Project Title:  Prenatal Bisphenol Exposure and Infant Brain Function
Principal Investigators: Amy Margolis, PhD, Assistant Professor of Medical Psychology (in Psychiatry) at the CUIMC
Co-Investigators: Julie Herbstman, EHS and William Fifer, Professor of Medical Psychology (in Psychiatry and Pediatrics)
Year:  2019
Award Amount: $34,800

Abstract:  In utero bisphenol A (BPA) exposure disturbs neurobehavioral development in animals and in humans, likely through direct effects on offspring brain development. However, the direct effect of BPA on human infant brain development has not been examined. Further, although BPA has been removed from many consumer products, it has been replaced by structural analogs, bisphenol-s and bisphenol-f (herein BP), which appear to have similar detrimental effects. By determining the impact of in utero BP exposure on the function of brain circuits underlying infant attention this study, and the planned R01, will generate data to be used in public health policy work to reduce infant exposure to BP. We will further use these data to test whether this biomarker enhances risk prediction for BP-associated phenotypes of neurodevelopmental disorders characterized by impaired attention in toddlers and early childhood. Long-term plans include collaboration with implementation scientists to generate a low-cost, easily administered electroencephalography (EEG) screen for use in the pediatrician’s office. Such a screening tool will allow us to develop and test precision prevention and intervention tools that will improve outcomes for at-risk infants.

Project Title:  Community-based Mapping of Noise in the South Bronx to Mitigate Traffic-related Emissions
Principal Investigator:  Markus Hilpert, PhD, Associate Professor of Environmental Health Sciences
Co-Investigators:  Steve Chillrud, PhD; Mychal Johnson, South Bronx Unite; Peter Muennig, PhD, HPM
Year:  2019-2020
Award Amount:  $35,000

Abstract:  The South Bronx experiences some of the worst congestion in the United States. This can be attributed to bridges, industrial facilities, interstates, and trucking intensive operations. Traffic likely contributes to the negative health outcomes this underprivileged community experiences, including noise-related outcomes like stress and high asthma burden. Our overall goal is to test the feasibility of developing exposure assessment technology in collaboration with citizen scientists to collect high spatio-temporal resolution noise data for the South Bronx. Our aims are to: (1) Develop low-cost noise monitors built and deployed by citizen scientists; (2) Run a data server for data upload, analysis, and internet access; and (3) Increase community knowledge and participation in the development and usage of exposure monitoring tools. For the first time, a local community will be enabled to build and operate environmental monitors, with the advantage that monitors can be customized to meet a community’s needs. Our collaboration with our community partner South Bronx Unite will be brought to the next level by increasing their autonomy with regard to collecting exposure data. Community engagement is expected to result in dense monitor deployment, resulting in highly resolved spatio-temporal noise maps that empower the community to advocate for noise/traffic pollution reducing interventions.

Project Title:  Environmental Determinants of Cognitive Decline
Principal Investigator:  Yian Gu, MD, PhD, Departments of Neurology, Epidemiology and Taub Institute
Co-Investigators:  Gary Miller, PhD, Dept. of EHS; Yaakov Stern, PhD, Dept. of Neurology
Year:  2019-2020
Award Amount:  $35,000

Abstract:  Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is among the greatest healthcare challenges of the 21st century. With no curative treatments available for AD, it is important to identify modifiable risk or protective factors for cognitive decline or AD risk. The role of environmental factors in cognitive decline and AD remains poorly understood. Traditional measures of environmental and lifestyle factors often rely on subjective reports and may be error prone. Furthermore, individuals’ metabolism of foods or other chemicals can be different. Thus, there is an urgent need for a more objective, direct measure of biologically meaningful environmental exposure levels. Furthermore, there have been increasing evidence suggesting that the brain and cognitive decline may start in early adulthood, with large differences in the rate of change among individuals. It is thus important to understand environmental factors that may contribute to the differential brain and cognitive change across lifespan. Thus, we propose the first study to identify blood biomarkers of brain and cognitive decline that capture the cumulative measure of environmental influences and associated biochemical responses by using a state-of-the-art ultra high-resolution exposomic/metabolomic platform. We will perform the study using data from an existing, well characterized, longitudinal cohort of cognitively healthy participants aged 20-80 living in the New York area.