2017 News Archive


30th Anniversary of Superfund Research Program Celebrated at Annual Meeting

The 30th anniversary of the NIEHS Superfund Research Program was celebrated during the annual meeting hosted by U-Penn, Dartmouth and Northeastern Superfund Program Centers in Philadelphia December 6-8. Past trainees were invited back to participate in the meeting and the opening keynote was given by Joe Shaw, Ph.D., former trainee with our program and ONE's award winner who spoke on “Mapping the chemosphere: Understanding our chemical world to improve human health and the environment.” Our Center was well represented with current trainee presentations and posters.

Margaret Karagas Quoted on Arsenic Levels in Baby Food

Dartmouth Superfund Research Program researcher Margaret Karagas is quoted in a New York Times article on levels of inorganic arsenic in infant rice cereal and cereal made from other grains. Although manufacturers have succeeded in reducing the amount of inorganic arsenic in these products, Dr. Karagas is concerned that, "It's just like lead: we don't think there is a safe level.”


Paper Published on Exposure to Methylmercury and Inorganic Arsenic in Rice in Baby Food and Teething Biscuits

According to the paper Co-exposure to Methylmercury and Inorganic Arsenic in Baby Rice Cereals and Rice-Containing Teething Biscuits co-authored by Dartmouth Superfund Program researcher Brian Jackson, it is still possible to purchase rice baby cereals with elevated inorganic arsenic concentrations in the U.S. In addition, all rice baby cereals and teething biscuits that were tested contained methylmercury, a potentially important dietary source of postnatal methylmercury exposure. The researchers conclude that studies concerning their individual and combined impacts on children's health and development are warranted.

High Levels of Arsenic in Water in Maine

According to a new U.S. Geological Survey report, Maine has one of the highest arsenic levels in both bedrock and well water. A letter to the editor in the Portland Press Herald explains why more needs to be done to ensure that families have access to clean drinking water.

Free Arsenic Testing of Residential Wells Offered in Rockport and Camden, ME

The Camden and Rockport Conservation committees are offering 150 free arsenic well tests to community members with residential well water. According to the Maine Center for Disease Control, one in five Knox County wells has too much arsenic. Extended exposure to arsenic has been linked to lung, skin and/or bladder cancer, low birth weights and can affect brain development. More information.

Mercury-Safe Tuna Company Mission to Clean Up Oceans

Through its fish-by-fish testing system, Safe Catch claims the lowest mercury concentration of any canned tuna company. Now, it wants to use its wealth of data to tackle the source of the contamination. Sean Wittenberg and a small team raised millions of dollars to develop a technology that could test a fish in seconds for a fraction of the current costs. More information.

Study Shows EPA Mandate On Arsenic Has Helped Drinking Water Quality

According to articles in Water Online and NIEHS Environmental Factor, a new study published in The Lancet Public Health journal, purports that federal efforts in the US to limit arsenic in drinking water has prevented hundreds of cases of lung and bladder cancer every year. While the mandate seems to have been effective for those served by public water systems, those served by private wells are likely still vulnerable.

Ob/Gyn Grand Rounds Talk by Dartmouth Superfund Research Program

Dartmouth Superfund Program Researchers Celia Chen and Tracy Punshon and Research Translation Core Coordinator, Laurie Rardin, presented a talk titled: “Arsenic and Mercury: Pathways to Human Exposure, Resulting Health Risks and Tools for Patients,” to the Ob/Gyn Grand Rounds at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Hanover, NH. Over 25 physicians and medical personnel attended and were very appreciative of the information presented and distributed.


USGS Study on Arsenic in Wells

A new study by the U.S. Geological Survey and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates about 2.1 million people in the U.S. may be getting their drinking water from private domestic wells considered to have high concentrations of arsenic, presumed to be from natural sources.The findings highlight the importance of private well owners working with their local and state officials to determine the best way to test and, if necessary, treat their water supplies.

2017 NH Arsenic Consortium Meeting Draws 80

The 2017 meeting of the NH Arsenic Consortium, held on October 13, drew 80 attendees from federal, state and local agencies, town government, academia, water industries and the private well community. Presentations on the latest arsenic research and outreach were well received and afternoon small group discussions prioritized actions to improve awareness and reduce public exposure to arsenic in water and food. Available presentations are posted on the NH Arsenic Consortium webpage.

Lower-Income Women Are Exposed to Higher Levels of Mercury

According to a new report from IPEN, a nonprofit devoted to issues of global health and toxic chemicals, and Biodiversity Research Institute, an ecology research organization, 42 percent of women in lower-income countries the organizations studied had average mercury levels exceeding the EPA reference dose in their hair samples. Higher levels of mercury can cause damage to the kidney, lungs and neurological systems and could damage the fetus that a pregnant woman is carrying, including its kidneys, cardiovascular system and IQ.


Society of Toxicology Interview with Bruce Stanton

Dartmouth Superfund Research Program Director Bruce Stanton was interviewed for an article in Society of Toxicology's Metals Specialty Section “Member Highlight”. In the interview, Dr. Stanton describes his career as a researcher, his advice for students, and his interest in sailing. See interview.

Celia Chen Participated in COP-1 Meeting

Dartmouth Superfund Program researcher Celia Chen participated in the first Conference of the Parties of the Minamata Convention on Mercury (COP-1) in Geneva Switzerland. Along with colleagues in the mercury field, she distributed fact sheets summarizing four science to policy papers to inform the delegates about the latest mercury science and the gaps in knowledge. Conference coverage is available on Dartmouth News and IISD Reporting Services.

Real Estate Agent to Pay Restitution to Seller of Chesterfield Property

A Greenfield, NH real estate agent has agreed to pay $5,000 in restitution to the seller of a property in Chesterfield for allegedly falsifying a water test report. The false test indicated the presence of an "extremely high level of arsenic" and allowed the home buyer the agent represented to purchase the property at a significant price reduction, according to N.H. Attorney General Gordon J. MacDonald's office. More information.

SRP-Funded Small Business Provides Cost-Effective Technology for Mercury Emissions

NIEHS (National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences) Superfund Research Program small business grantee and Wyoming-based start-up Pollution Control Technologies (PCTech) has initiated field tests of its new X-FA system, a cost-effective tool to capture mercury emissions. More information.


Concerns About Gluten-Free Diets for Children Without Celiac Disease

An article in U.S.News raises questions about children who do not have celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity eating gluten-free diets. There is particular concern about rice as a substitute for gluten since it can contain naturally occurring inorganic arsenic. Exposure in utero or in early life can raise the risk of cancer and affect neurological development, among other negative effects. A study published in February found that Americans on gluten-free diets had higher concentrations of arsenic and mercury in their urine and blood than people on a regular diet, possibly from rice consumption. According to Dartmouth Superfund Program researcher Tracy Punshon, it's unclear whether that translates to health problems for adults or for children, who are more vulnerable to contaminants because of their developing brains.

Many Maine Families Can't Afford to Treat Well Water

An estimated 100,000 people in Maine have well water that is contaminated by arsenic. Prolonged exposure to arsenic has been linked to learning disabilities, cognitive problems, anxiety and depression, and cancer. Since many families cannot afford to treat their well water to remove arsenic, legislation has been passed to help lower income Maine residents. It is not known whether Governor LePage will sign the bill. More information.


Mercury in Fish as Possible Risk Factor for ALS

Two researchers from the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth recently were interviewed on the results of their study on mercury in fish as a possible risk factor for ALS. The July 29 interview was on the WRVO Public Media radio show "Take Care". Listen here.

Food Safety and Quality Standards Adopted on Arsenic Contamination in Rice

The United Nations food standards body Codex Alimentarius Commission met in Geneva July 17-22 to adopt food safety and quality standards. Scroll down for "Code of Practice for the prevention and reduction of arsenic contamination in rice." Charged with protecting consumer health and ensuring fair practices in the food trade, the Codex Alimentarius is a joint initiative of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

EPA Approves New Rules for Mercury in California Fish

The US EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) has adopted new rules governing the level of mercury that is permitted in CA fish. The new criteria set "maximum levels of mercury for fish caught for sport, subsistence and cultural practices." Mercury is a toxic metallic element that can build up in fish and cause damage to humans. For additional information

13th International Conference on Mercury as a Global Pollutant (ICMGP) Science to Policy Synthesis Workshop

On July 16, thirty scientists and policy stakeholders attended a day-long workshop, Integrating Mercury Research and Policy in a Changing World, as part of the ICMGP 2017 meeting. Organized and led by the Dartmouth SRP Research Translation Core, the workshop provided the opportunity for face-to-face communications between mercury science experts and national and international policymakers and stakeholders. Presentations by policymaker and stakeholder representatives identified questions and knowledge gaps in mercury research to be addressed in a series of 4 synthesis papers on different aspects of mercury pollution. The workshop culminated with a full-group discussion on how to translate these synthesis papers to have a bigger impact on mercury policy. A more detailed summary and photos are available here.

ICMPG Meeting Mentioned in Providence Journal Fishing Round-Up

The Providence Journal has included ICMGP 2017 (International Conference on Mercury) as a Global Pollutant in their fishing round-up!

Superfund Faculty and Trainees Attend MDI Applied Bioinformatics Course

30 Students and 7 faculty attended the July 15-20 Applied Bioinformatics Course at MDI Biological Laboratory. These included: Stephen Costa (Dartmouth), Liviu Cengher (Dartmouth), Victoria Holden (Dartmouth), Bruce Stanton (Dartmouth, Course Co-Director), Zhongyou Li (Dartmouth), Ben King (University of Maine, Course Co-Director), Thomas Hampton (Dartmouth), Katja Koeppen (Dartmouth), Tiffany Sanchez (Columbia) and Anne Bozack (Columbia).

The Course provided hands-on training on major bioinformatics resources through the analysis of RNA-Seq data examining the effects of arsenic on the transcriptional response of lung cells to bacterial infection, to find differentially expressed genes and investigate previously described functions of those genes and the pathways in which they are involved. Dartmouth Superfund Program Director Bruce Stanton was the Course Co-Director.

Study Finds Toxic Mercury in Artic Tundra

Researchers led by Professor Daniel Obrist, chairman of UMass Lowell's Department of Environmental, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, "...found that airborne mercury is gathering in the Arctic tundra, where it gets deposited in the soil and ultimately runs off into waters." The new research identifies gaseous mercury as the major source. Dr. Obrist is presenting this research at the July 16-19 International Conference on Mercury as a Global Pollutant in Providence, RI, which is co-chaired by Dartmouth Superfund Program researcher Celia Chen. More information.

New Web Application Developed

Dartmouth Superfund Program Director Bruce Stanton, Superfund researcher Thomas Hampton, and lead author Katja Koeppen have developed a new web application, ScanGEO, that allows rapid meta-analysis of publicly available gene expression data. The application is freely accessible using this link. For more information, refer to the Applications Note.


Arsenic and You Website Provides "Wealth of Information"

According to NIEHS's Environmental Factor e-newsletter, Dartmouth College Superfund Program's Arsenic and You website provides a "wealth of information on how people are exposed to arsenic and steps that they can take to reduce exposures". The website was developed to inform the public and answer questions about arsenic in water, food and other sources.


Brain Buzz Science Cafe on Arsenic in Food

Todd Warczak spoke about arsenic in rice for a Brain Buzz Science Café at the Upper Valley Food Coop in White River Junction on May 10 to a great group full of questions. He discussed his research in detail and provided great information on how to address the problem of arsenic in rice. More information.

Kathrin Lawlor Talk on Importance of Testing Wells

Dartmouth Superfund Program Community Engagement Coordinator, Kathrin Lawlor, spoke to a full house about the importance of testing wells for arsenic and other contaminants in Belmont, NH. Partners Pierce Rigrod from the NH Department of Environmental Services and Lou Barinelli from the NH State Public Health Lab were also part of the program.

Kathrin Lawlor Presents to UNH Environmental Health Class

Community Engagement Coordinator, Kathrin Lawlor, presented to a University of New Hampshire environmental health class of 30 students on the topic of arsenic in NH and provided an overview of our program's research and outreach activities.

Union Leader Coverage of Arsenic and You Website Launch

The Manchester Union Leader story about our new website Arsenic and You -- www.ArsenicandYou.org.


Arsenic and You Launched at Local Event

Arsenic and You, the first website to provide comprehensive information on arsenic in food, water and other sources, was officially launched and celebrated at the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center in Concord, NH on April 26. About 30 people gathered to hear remarks sent by Senator Jeanne Shaheen and Representative Annie Kuster in support of the research on arsenic conducted by the Dartmouth Superfund Program and the development of the Arsenic and You website, which will help people identify and reduce their potential exposure to the toxin. Read more about the website. Find it at www.ArsenicandYou.org.

SRP Regional Meeting at Northeastern University

On April 4-5, 2017 the Northeastern PROTECT Superfund Research Program (SRP) hosted a regional meeting of over 100 attendees from Dartmouth, Boston University, Northeastern, Brown and Columbia SRP programs. Everyone found the meeting highly productive and informative. For more details visit the Northeastern webpage.


Concord Monitor Cites Dartmouth Superfund Program Work

An article in the Concord Monitor cites work by the Dartmouth Superfund Program, in cooperation with our stakeholders, to inform and educate private well owners about the need to test and treat their wells, as well our CEC (Community Engagement Core) and RTC (Research Translation Core) work to survey private well owners and test interventions. The article also mentions our new website, Arsenic and You.

NH Water & Watershed Conference

Dartmouth Superfund Program Community Engagement Coordinator Kathrin Lawlor and Trace Element Analysis Research Scientist Vivien Taylor presented at the March 24, 2017 NH Water & Watershed Conference at Plymouth State University. Kathrin spoke on "Arsenic in Private Well Water: Engaging a variety of stakeholders to create lasting change" and Vivien presented on "Controls and Impacts of Mercury in Watersheds in the Northeast.


Margaret Karagas Quoted on Importance of Reducing Arsenic Exposure in Food

Superfund Program researcher Margaret Karagas is quoted in Health on the importance of reducing consumers' exposure to arsenic in food. She mentions the strategies of “testing private wells for arsenic and eating a diverse diet" in addition to soaking rice and cooking it in extra water.

AAAS 2017 Arsenic in Food Session Big Success!

Sixty people attended the American Association for the Advancement of Science session, Arsenic in Food: From Soil to Plate to Policy. Mary Lou Guerinot was the session organizer and Margaret Karagas, David Salt and Keeve Nachman were the presenters. A story in Science Magazine provides a great summary.

Bruce Stanton Speaks at Gordon Research Conference

Dartmouth Superfund Program Director Bruce Stanton spoke at the Gordon Research Conference "Cilia, Mucus & Mucociliary Interactions" in Galveston, TX. His February 14 talk was attended by 160 people.