EHS Fall 2004 Newsletter

With the new academic year going by quickly, many of us are wondering what is going on in the Environmental Health Sciences Division. Below is some news that we hope will give you a brief update regarding faculty, students, and staff in the EHS community.

1. New Students
2. Staff Changes
3. Birth Announcements
4. New Grants
5. Recent Ph.D. Graduates
6. News from Professor Kirk Smith's Research Group
7. News from Professor Nina Holland's Research Group
8. First Annual Student Camping Trip
9. Attention Students: Masters and Ph.D. Representative Nominations Due
10. EHS Whitewater Rafting Trip
11. EHS Happy Hour
12. Newsletter Contact Information

New Students

Cathy Tuglus, Ph.D., Robert Spear
Anielka Gonzales-Webb, M.S./HED, Kirk Smith
Ryan Johnson, M.S./HED, Kirk Smith
Rebecca Kehrer, M.S./HED, Kirk Smith
Limor Geisler, M.S., Robert Spear
Daniel Laks, M.S., Katharine Hammond
Gian Allen-Piccolo, M.P.H., Kirk Smith
Matthew Carlson, M.P.H., Tom McKone
Sara J. Janssen, M.P.H., John Balmes
Miram Rotkin-Ellman, M.P.H., Robert Spear
Rene Shiao, M.P.H., Martyn T. Smith
Helen Song, M.P.H., Mark Nicas
Josef Thundiyi,l M.P.H., John Balmes
Naomi Ufberg, M.P.H., Martyn T. Smith

Staff Changes

Staff changes after the Spring 2004 term.

Judy Bear, M.S.O for the Division left for retirement
Janice Crooks started as the new M.S.O for the EHS Division
Elisa Wakefield from Berkeley Center for Environmental Public Health Tracking, left for a benefits position in Los Angeles
Donna Dahrouge started as Assistant Director for Berkeley Center for Environmental Public Health Tracking, assisting John Balmes
Holly McGuire started as COEH Program Representative, assisting Suzanne Llewelyn
Alisa Jenny started as Research Manager with Kirk Smith
Zohir Chowdhury started as a Post-Doctoral student working on the following projects with Professor Kirk Smith:
?Development of a Low Cost Particle Monitoring Instrument
?Analysis of the Air Pollution Data from Guatemala
Song Liang started as an Assistant Researcher working with Professor Robert Spear, and his work is contributing towards the use of mathematical models for the design of village-based intervention strategies for the control of the parastic disease schistosomiasis in China.
Noe Galvan started as a Post-Doctoral Researcher working with Professor Martyn T. Smith, and his work will involve looking at changes induced in humans and cell cultures by chemical exposure.
Ji Zhiying started as a Post-Doctoral Researcher working with Professor Martyn T. Smith, and his work will involve the application of new technologies such as arrays, Comet-FISH and proteomics to the study of the effects of benzene and other aromatic hydrocarbons on the human blood and bone marrow.
Andrew Olaharski started as Post-Doctoral Researcher working with Professor Martyn T. Smith, and will be involved in the research on biomarkers of benzene exposure and causes of childhood leukemia.

Birth Announcements

Anielka Gonzales-Webb (1st year HED student) gave birth to a baby boy this month.

Zohir Chowdhury is the proud father of Oyon (baby boy) born in September:

Sharmin, Oyon, and Zohir

New Grants

The following grants were received after Spring 2004.

State Level Geocoding of SWITRS Data, David Ragland, 10/1/04-9/30/05
California Best Practices for Teen Traffic Safety, David Ragland, 10/1/04-9/30/05
Protecting Lithographic Printers from Chronic Health Damage: Promoting the Use of Safer Alternatives for Toxic Cleanup Solvents, Mark Nicas, 9/8/04-9/7/05
Health Protective Textiles: Bridging the Disposable/Reusable Divide, Mark Nicas, 9/15/04-8/31/09
Alcohol-Involved Collision/Victims Reduction Program, David Ragland, 6/1/04-9/30/05
Toxic Substances Program, Robert Spear, 7/1/04-6/30/057) Identifications of Biomarkers of Arsenic Exposure and Metabolism: Comparison of Urine Proteomic Patterns, Martyn Smith, 7/22/04-7/21/05
Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Study (City of Emeryville), David Ragland, 8/10/04-11/9/04
Indoor Air Pollution Study, Kirk Smith, 9/1/04-2/28/05
A Pilot Study of Heat-Treatments to Denature HIV in Breast Milk, Barbara Abrams, 5/1/04-4/30/05, $164,600
Promotion of Rural Renewable Energy in Western China, Kirk Smith, 5/1/04-9/30/05
Biomarkers for Benzene Exposure and Genotoxicity, Martyn Smith, 5/1/04-3/31/08
Gender, Obesity, C-Reactive Protein and Oxidative Stress Study, Nina Holland, 4/15/04-2/28/05 (4/15/04-2/28/08)

Recent Ph.D. Graduates

Dissertations from Ph.D. students who filed in December 2003 or May 2004.

Song Liang, "A Spatio-Temporal Modeling of Schistosomiasis Transmission Dynamics and Control in Sichuan, China."

Rosemary Castorina, "Methods of Assessing Risk from Pesticide Exposure in Pregnant Women Living in an Agricultural Community Using Biomarkers and Benchmark Dose Modeling"

Neil Kleipeis, "Using Computer Simulation to Explore Multi-Compartment Effects and Mitigation Strategies for Residential Exposure to Secondhand Tobacco Smoke"

Morton Schei, "Asthma, Allergies, and Indoor Air Pollution in Nepal and India"

Kathleen Vork, "Development of an Occupational Air Contaminant Exposure Monitoring and Control Strategy with Application to Lead Exposure during Bridgework"

News from Professor Kirk Smith's Research Group

This past summer, EHS students conducted pilot studies in the Western Highlands of Guatemala. Participants were recruited from those currently enrolled in the NIH-funded Guatemala Stove Intervention Study (Prof. Kirk R. Smith, PI). This main study is monitoring indoor air exposure and health outcomes such as pneumonia among over 500 infants from birth to 18 months of age, to determine whether children living in improved or "clean" stove households have a lower incidence of pneumonia as compared to children from homes that use open fires for cooking.

Jamesine Rogers, "Time Activity in children 3-7 years using the UCB Ultrasound Locator." In August 2004, I conducted a pilot study in San Lorenzo, Guatemala of a new technology developed by UCB and EME Systems, the UCB Personal Locator. The UCB Personal Locator consists of two parts: a transmitter which emits a signal when worn by the subject and a receiver which records signals upon detection. The purpose of my study was to assess the accuracy and appropriateness of the UCB Personal Locator under field conditions in identifying when a child is exposed to a major source of air pollution in the kitchen, or other space of interest. Data from direct observation and the UCB Personal Locator were compared to determine: (1) accuracy, sensitivity and specificity of the device; (2) the placement of the transmitter on the subject which maximizes accuracy, and (3) the placement of the receiver in the kitchen which maximizes accuracy. Based on the results of this pilot study, the UCB Personal Locator provides an accurate measure of length of exposure to a source of indoor air pollution (accuracy: 95.0%, sensitivity: 89.0%, specificity: 71.1%) and thus will provide an improved method of exposure assessment among future studies in this population.

Shannon Coulter-Burke, "Household ventilation measurements: development of methods." Ventilation properties play a significant role in determining pollutant concentration levels in indoor environments. In August 2004, a study was conducted to determine if ventilation, measured as the rate of air exchange, could be adequately captured by taking a total of four measurements collected on two separate occasions. If the measurement methodology proves adequate, the measurements will provide rates of air exchange for the study households. Prior to the study, homes were visually inspected and assigned to one of three ventilation categories: open, partially-open, and closed. Two homes from each ventilation category were selected, and air exchange measurements were taken four times at each home. Using the central estimate for each home, analysis of variance by ventilation category showed a statistically significant difference at 95%. This suggests that the two-visit, four-experiment measurement methodology may be sufficient to capture reasonable estimates of air exchange rates in homes of this type.

Lisa Thompson, "Pilot testing of pulmonary function and allergies among children 5-8 years." Lisa Thompson, a family nurse practitioner and doctoral student in EHS at UCB, and Janet Diaz, a pulmonologist from UCSF conducted a pilot study of spirometry and allergy testing. Thirty children between the ages of 5 and 9 were recruited to participate in the pilot study. The pilot study found that spirometry and allergy testing are acceptable among this very young group of Guatemalan children. Fifty percent of the study sample was able to perform spirometry maneuvers that were acceptable on the first try, with older children doing better than younger ones. Eighty percent of children who could not perform spirometry on the first try were able to do it on a second try one week later. The prevalence of airway obstruction (as determined by reversibility testing with inhaled albuterol) consistent with a diagnosis of asthma was calculated at 14% among our sample. This rate is much higher than the symptoms-based prevalence of 3.3% reported in a similar but larger Guatemalan cohort study. Thirty-five percent of the children demonstrated an allergic response to common allergens such as cockroach, dust mite, and cat.

Spirometry and allergy skin testing are objective measures that allow us to go beyond self-reported symptom-based evaluation methods. Symptom-based methods are the typical approach for surveying populations lacking adequate health care and diagnostic tests. Longitudinal follow-up of the children currently enrolled in the stove intervention study offers a unique opportunity to determine the impact of early life exposure to biomass smoke on chronic respiratory health, including the development of asthma and allergies. To date, this is the only study of allergy or respiratory health of Mayan indigenous children in Guatemala.

A mother in Guatemala trained in spirometry testing and her children. Photo by Lisa Thompson

A mother in Guatemala trained in spirometry testing and her children. Photo by Lisa Thompson

Funding for these research projects comes from the Brian and Jennifer Maxwell Edowed Chair in Public Health held by Professor Kirk Smith

News from Professor Nina Holland's Research Group

Nina T. Holland, adjunct professor of molecular and genetic epidemiology, received funding to study the pathogenesis of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) in children and will support the seven center Pediatric IBD consortium as the project's Molecular and Laboratory core center. Dr. Holland also received funding to study the role of genetics in the inflammatory response to ozone exposure, in collaboration with Dr. John Balmes. Paurene Duramad, a Ph.D. candidate in Dr. Holland's lab, has recently published as first author an interesting paper entitled "Flow cytometric detection of intracellular Th1/Th2 cytokines using whole blood: Validation of immunologic biomarker for use in epidemiologic studies." This paper discusses the development and optimization of a novel biomarker that can help researchers study the effects of environmental toxicants on the human immune system. Paurene has received a student scholarship in recognition of her work and will present her findings at the Central & Eastern European Environmental Health Conference in Prague, Czech Republic on October 26, 2004. Another recent paper by the Holland lab, in collaboration with Dr. Brenda Eskenazi, Director of CHAMACOS cohort study, is entitled "Association of in utero organophosphate pesticide exposure and fetal growth and length of gestation in an agricultural population." This paper reports key findings on the effects of pesticide exposure on children's health and development.

First Annual Student Camping Trip

EHS is proud to announce the First Annual Camping trip for all current EHS students to welcome new incoming students and was held September 12-14. Many thanks to Rachael Jones, Lesliam Quiros, Cathy Tuglus, and Yu Kuwabara for organizing this event. Here are some quotes from two happy students that attended:

Helen Song, First year M.P.H. Student. "Nestled in the hills not too far from downtown Oakland, students and staff of EHS engaged in a weekend of nature, good company, and fine dining while overlooking a spectacular panoramic view of Lake Chabot. Students displayed their skills in tent making, bonfire building, and smore cooking. Some highlights: One of the student's gregarious chows pervaded the campsite with the aroma of its skunk-sprayed fur coat. Norma Firestone dropped in Saturday morning to cook chorizo, a savory Mexican breakfast of sausage and eggs. The trip ended as a well needed break for most and a quaint way to befriend fellow colleagues."

Kyra Naumoff, Current Ph.D. Student. "I really enjoyed the EHS camping trip as sitting around a campfire is such a great way to meet new folks entering the program. Work stories, cycling training schedules and travel adventures were exchanged...combined
with Rachel's banana cake, the event was a real hit!"

Attention Students: Masters and Ph.D. Representative Nominations Due

The Masters and Ph.D. Representative nominations will be in a couple of weeks. If you want to nominate an EHS student, or if you are interested in running for one of these positions, please contact Nyree Bekarian at, or Miriam Rotkin-Elman at The Working Group Committee still needs volunteers for Fall 2004-Spring 2005. If you are interested, contact Rachael Jones at

EHS Whitewater Rafting Trip

On May 14, 2004, ten adventurous EHS professors, researchers and staff members ventured out to the American River for a day of whitewater rafting fun. Led by their fearless leader Justin Girard and aided by many cans of beer, they ran the South Fork of the American River and conquered class III rapids such as Satan's Cesspool, Dead Man's Drop, and Bouncing Rock. Despite some close calls (one raft ran into some rocks and propelled Kacy backwards into the river), all ten made it to the finish line.

L to R: Suzanne Llewellyn, John (Alan's friend), Joe Eisenberg, Norma Firestone, Jim (Janny's friend), Janny Chiu, Elisa Wakefield, Alan Hubbard, Michael Murphy, Justin Girard, and Kacy Hone. For more pictures, visit the display window in the EHS lobby.   

L to R: Suzanne Llewellyn, John (Alan's friend), Joe Eisenberg, Norma Firestone, Jim (Janny's friend), Janny Chiu, Elisa Wakefield, Alan Hubbard, Michael Murphy, Justin Girard, and Kacy Hone. For more pictures, visit the display window in the EHS lobby.


EHS Happy Hour

EHS will have a Happy Hour event on October 21, 2004 at 4-6 PM in 759 University. Hall

News Letter Contact Information

If you have any suggestions for EHS activities or for other news to be included in this newsletter, please contact Norma Firestone at