Urban Health In the News

Our research makes the headlines. Leading news organizations frequently feature our department’s experts discussing the impacts of the environment on health.


May 20
Science Magazine

EPA plan to end funding for children's health research leaves scientists scrambling
Ending grants for children’s centers is one of several moves the Trump EPA has taken to undercut research. In rejecting a proposed ban on the neurotoxic pesticide chlorpyrifos, for instance, EPA mirrored arguments made by the pesticide industry to raise concerns about peer-reviewed research it had funded by Columbia University’s Center for Children’s Environmental Health (Greenwire, Aug. 23, 2018).

May 20
Los Angeles Times

Trump's 'pro-life' administration just killed a program on children's health
Evidence developed at Columbia University that the pesticide chlorpyrifos interferes with children’s neurological development helped establish scientific grounds for a 2015 EPA recommendation for a ban on the chemical for agricultural use (it was banned in 2001 for domestic use).

May 9
MedPage Today

CDC: Hepatitis A Cases Quadruple in 5 Years
Stephen Morse, of the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health in New York City, told MedPage Today that the higher number of outbreak-associated infections reflected changing social conditions. "In many ways, the changing epidemiology of hepatitis A has been riding the wave of increased homelessness and the opioid crisis," he said.

May 7
New York Times

Huge Racial Disparities Found in Deaths Linked to Pregnancy
“Health issues of pregnancy don’t just end when the baby comes out, and that hasn’t gotten the attention it should,” said Lynn P. Freedman, director of the maternal death and disability program at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health.

April 26

Amid measles outbreak, more than 1,000 told to stay home from L.A. universities 
Measles is one of the most contagious diseases in the world, and a single case can lead to hundreds more. Banishing people to their homes becomes a necessary last resort in a measles outbreak, experts say, especially on college campuses where cases can rapidly spread. “What else can you do?” said Columbia University public health professor Dr. Stephen Morse. “It’s disruptive, it’s resource-intensive and it doesn’t make people feel very pleased — this is basically the measure you’re left with.”

April 27
PBS NewsHour

There's a measles outbreak. Do you need another shot?
The PBS NewsHour posed these questions and concerns to: Stephen Morse, director of the infectious disease epidemiology program at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. “The virus can incubate slowly in the brain over years. Then suddenly, usually when the patient is much older [up to 10 years after a person has measles], the infection will reactivate and you get this very severe progressive inflammation in the brain called Subacute Sclerosing Panencephaliti

April 24

What to do if someone in your office has the measles
For those who are not vaccinated, the danger is everywhere, says Stephen Morse, an epidemiologist at Columbia University. Morse argues that employers should start treating the measles like it’s their problem, too. Companies ought to make it easy for workers who know or suspect they need to get vaccinated to visit a doctor’s office and still be compensated. 

April 17
New York Times

Gun Research is Suddenly Hot
Research publications on gun violence also appear to be rising, reflecting an enhanced interest by journal editors, not just scholars. “There’s new names on a lot of these publications,” said Ted Alcorn, an instructor at Columbia whose analysis of gun-related science publications over the past few decades was published in JAMA Internal Medicine. His study found that gun research had declined as a share of science research since the mid-1990s, but that it began to rise sharply in 2012, the year of the Sandy Hook school shooting in Connecticut.
Ted Alcorn is affiliated faculty teaching the gun violence course (Charlie Branas) in Department of Epidemiology.

April 8

Measles Outbreak Spreading Rapidly, Now Reaches 19 US States As CDC Reports 78 New Cases
The complete list of states reporting measles cases according to the CDC is as follows: Arizona, ... people living in close proximity, and growing distrust of vaccines and public health initiatives in those communities,” Dr. Melissa Stockwell with Columbia University Medical Center told Newsweek. 

April 1
NBC Chicago

It's Not You. Allergy Seasons Are Getting Longer and Worse
Dr. Kim Knowlton, deputy director of the Science Center at the Natural Resources Defense Council and assistant clinical professor at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, warned that the northward shifts in the distribution of some tree species, including oaks, could alter the type and quantity of allergenic pollen to which people in different geographic areas are exposed.
"It is likely to mean a continuing trend toward longer pollen production seasons, which could mean symptoms over more of the year, possibly more people sensitized to pollen allergen, and more intense symptoms among those already allergic to pollen," Knowlton said.

March 27
ABC 17 News

Psychosis in teens may be linked to air pollution
Marianthi-Anna Kioumourtzoglou, an assistant professor in the Department of Environmental Health Sciences at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, wrote that "air pollution exposures are ubiquitous in urban environments," yet they are "modifiable and can be reduced through rigorous regulatory action."
"It is especially important to identify other factors that may potentially ameliorate the consequences of air pollution to protect human health," said Kioumourtzoglou. "These could be lifestyle, nutritional, or neighborhood-level factors. As the global population is becoming increasingly urban, it is of utmost importance to incorporate public environmental health into urban planning decisions."
Also was covered in Healio: Youth exposed to highest levels of air pollution report psychotic experiences

March 27

Psychosis in Teens May Be Linked to An Unlikely Culprit
Marianthi-Anna Kioumourtzoglou, an assistant professor in the Department of Environmental Health Sciences at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, wrote in an editorial published beside the study that "air pollution exposures are ubiquitous in urban environments," yet they are "modifiable and can be reduced through rigorous regulatory action."
"It is especially important to identify other factors that may potentially ameliorate the consequences of air pollution to protect human health," said Kioumourtzoglou, who had no role in the new research. "These could be lifestyle, nutritional, or neighborhood-level factors."
"As the global population is becoming increasingly urban, it is of utmost importance to incorporate public environmental health into urban planning decisions."

March 14
NY1 News - Inside City Hall

Understanding the Measles Outbreak
As a measles outbreak continues to grow in the city, Dr. Stephen Morse joined Errol Louis to discuss the importance of vaccinations and why some parents are not getting their children vaccinated.

March 12

Measles Is Spiking Around The Globe. How Worried Should We Be?
Stephen S. Morse got measles as a kid in New York City. He's now a professor of epidemiology at Columbia University. When he was growing up, he says, nearly all children got measles. That's not the case now, and that's one cause of people avoiding vaccination in places like the U.S., Italy and France. "We've kind of taken it for granted because we see so few cases," he says. "That's the vaccine essentially being a victim of its own success. People don't see a problem; they think it's not there anymore."

March 7

Lawmakers talk funding for gun violence prevention research
"I'd want to see renewed interest and many more resources devoted to the scientific study and prevention of gun violence," said Charles Branas, professor and chair of the department of epidemiology at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health in New York, who was senior author of a gun violence study published in the medical journal The BMJ on Wednesday.
"More specifically, the rate of mass shootings in permissive states appears to be increasing since 2010, while the rate in restrictive states appears to be decreasing," said Branas, the study's senior author.
All in all, Branas said, "For mass shootings, we'd love to see more of a call for better data collection on these tragedies and funding for new scientific study of which specific laws are accounting for the differences between permissive and restrictive states that we are just now finding."

March 7
Fast Company

Mass Shootings Are Highe in States with Permissive Gun Laws
“Our analyses reveal that U.S. gun laws have become more permissive in past decades, and the divide between permissive states and those with more stringent laws seems to be on the uptick in concert with the growing tragedy of mass shootings in the U.S.,” said study co-author Charles Branas, chair of the school’s Department of Epidemiology, in a statement.

February 25

Will Your Flu Shot Weaken as Flu Season Drags On
Looking at older adults, Melissa Stockwell, MD, an associate professor of pediatrics and of population and family health at Columbia University, says ''we don't know enough about the waning in a season'' to make hard and fast recommendations at the beginning of the season. The researchers concluded there may be benefits to vaccinating older patients as close to the start of flu activity to maximize protection.
She also does not recommend that adults get a second flu shot.

February 20

Children suffer more from air pollution, but our policies don't reflect that
Further, policy makers don’t give sufficient attention to the benefits for children when evaluating how well regulations put forth to reduce fossil fuel emissions are working, says Frederica Perera, director of the Columbia Center for Children's Environmental Health… That’s even though there is strong evidence that exposure to particulate matter and other airborne pollutants, like nitrous oxide, generated by burning fossil fuels, likely cause childhood health effects such as preterm birth, low birth weight, autism, and asthma, noted Perera and colleagues in a new review published in the journal Environmental Research. “This is an important, missing piece of the conversation,” she says.

February 20
New York Magazine

Trump's environmental policies are putting the health of American children at risk.  
In 1997, Virginia Rauh, deputy director of the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health, and her colleagues began studying the prenatal effects of exposure to airborne pollutants on a group of pregnant women who lived in Washington Heights, central Harlem, and the South Bronx. Part of their study focused on chlorpyrifos. It is the most widely used insecticide in the country, according to the EPA, even though its use has declined since Rauh and Eskenazi began their studies. The women in the Columbia study, mostly African-American or of Dominican ancestry, encountered chlorpyrifos because it was also widely used at the time as the active ingredient in household insecticides, including Raid. The Columbia group has followed approximately 370 children who were born to women exposed during pregnancy. In a series of papers, Rauh and her colleagues have documented a link between higher levels of exposure to chlorpyrifos in the womb and early cognitive and behavioral deficits…The study showed, Rauh says, “significant differences, years later, in structural characteristics of the brain” between kids who had high versus low pesticide exposure in the womb. In some cases, higher exposure to chlorpyrifos in the womb was linked to surprising changes in brain architecture: females exhibited structural features typical of the male brain and males exhibited features typical of female brains. More recently, the Columbia researchers have reported that about 40 percent of the children who had the highest exposures to chlorpyrifos in the womb exhibited “mild to moderate tremor” in at least one arm.

February 14

Water providers put cost for 1,4-dioxane treatment systems at $840M
Long Island water providers say an estimated $840 million price tag to add treatment systems to 185 drinking water wells contaminated by 1,4-dioxane — a chemical the state is expected to regulate this year —  could lead to a spike in water rates. …"I have to say I was born on Long Island. I have family on Long Island and I have four grandchildren on Long Island," panel member Joseph Graziano, a professor of Environmental Health Sciences and Pharmacology at Columbia University, said at the December meeting. "I'm comfortable with the 1 part per billion."

February 8

MTA Says They Finally Found The Source of The Noxious L Train Smell... Maybe
"It can be expected that this contamination is further carried away, and certainly the tunnel where the odors occurred is not so far away from the spill site," Dr. Markus Hilpert, an associate professor of environmental health science at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University, told Gothamist.
The "big question" has to do with the concentration of toxic chemicals in the air inside the tunnel. But Hilpert notes that the fuel leak may prove difficult to clean up, regardless of its initial source."If you have a contaminated soil on the surface of a landscape you would excavate it, but that’s not so easy in a subway environment," Hilpert added. "It could be a major technological challenge to deal with that."

January 26
ABC News

Low vaccination rates a big factor in ongoing measles outbreak
What's going on in Washington is not unique. Dr. Stephen Morse, a professor in the epidemiology department at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University, said public health measures have become "a victim of their own success." "When nothing happens we assume there's no danger but the reality is there's measles all over the world," he said. "The year I had it, another 500,000 kids in America had it. There were a significant number of deaths [but] most of us survived," Morse said. “It was so common that you took it for granted that you had these childhood diseases."

January 21

Flu Forecasting Models Consistently More Accurate Than Historical Baseline Models
A team of investigators from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Texas at Austin, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Columbia University, Los Alamos National Laboratory, and Mount Holyoke College collaborated on the project, which compared the accuracy of weekly real-time forecasts assembled between 2010 and 2017 to a historical baseline seasonal average.
"The field of infectious disease forecasting is in its infancy and we expect that innovation will spur improvements in forecasting in the coming years," the authors write. Jeffrey Shaman, the senior author of a study referenced in this article, is an associate professor of environmental health sciences at the Mailman School.

January 16

These Latina moms wanted to prevent asthma. They started with daycares
Those could trigger asthma, said Sally Findley, a professor at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health.
"Many of the things that trigger asthma in the home are also present in the daycare," she said. "You're going to have some of the same problems with cockroaches and mold…Findley said daycare providers want to get rid of asthma triggers. It's just that, usually, no one tells them how.

January 4
WNYC News|
Columbia University epidemiologist Stephen Morse says the numbers might herald the start of a rough flu season for the greater metro area. “Once it gets to New York, you might expect it would usually spread fairly well, but that's not too surprising and I would expect most of the rest of the area to start showing a similar pattern in the next few weeks.”