State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School


From the Atmosphere to Asthma: Exploring the Field of Environmental Health

By: Deborah Sachare

What do health and the environment have to do with one another? The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) Center for Environmental Health in Northern Manhattan seeks to examine this connection by dedicating their research to the understanding and prevention of environmental components of disease. The Center for Environmental Health in Northern Manhattan is one of the core centers of the NIEHS, which is part of the National Institutes of Health and in turn, the Department of Health and Human Services. The research being done at the Center, on topics such as climate change, lifetime environmental exposures, and genetic susceptibility, seeks to improve the health outcomes of cancer, respiratory disease, and neurological disease.

The Undergraduate Program in Sustainable Development was pleased to host Dr. Regina Santella, Director of the NIEHS Center for Environmental Health in Northern Manhattan as the opening speaker of the Spring 2014 Speaker Series. Dr. Santella is the Vice Dean of Faculty Affairs and Research and Professor of Environmental Health Sciences at the Mailman School of Public Health and is an affiliate of the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center. Her current studies seek to understand the role of environmental/lifestyle factors on epigenetic changes in DNA and whether such changes can be used for early diagnosis of cancer. Dr. Santella shared insight into her own cutting-edge research on carcinogens and described the work of the Center for Environmental Health in Northern Manhattan.

One of the ongoing research projects involves studying climate change and predicting how the shift in temperature and climate patterns will influence which trees grow in Manhattan, and where they will grow. Because the climate of the future might favor a different type of tree than the current climate, the pollen counts in the future will vary from what we typically see today. The research being done shows a possible correlation between the pollen count and the number of asthma cases in children in New York City. These climate shifts may be affecting respiratory disease in Manhattan’s youth.

The NIEHS Center for Environmental Health in Northern Manhattan exposed students with an interest in Sustainable Development to the intersection between health and the environment. This was just one of many topics covered by the Undergraduate Program in Sustainable Development’s regularly scheduled Speaker Series. In the 2014 spring semester alone, speakers at the Earth Institute will discuss sustainable architecture, international development, and community engagement. To see a list of upcoming speakers, please visit the events section of our website. While the Speaker Series is hosted by the Undergraduate Program in Sustainable Development, all undergraduate and graduate students at Columbia and affiliated schools are invited to attend.

Columbia’s Undergraduate Program in Sustainable Development is an interdisciplinary program that addresses sustainable development through an understanding of the interaction between natural and social systems, offered through the Earth Institute in partnership with Columbia College and the School of General Studies. Participating departments and schools of the Sustainable Development major and special concentration include the Department of Earth and Environmental Biology; the Department of Earth and Environmental Engineering; the School of International and Public Affairs and the Mailman School of Public Health.

To learn more about the major and special concentration in Sustainable Development, please visit our website or contact Jessica Sotomayor, Program Manager, at


Deborah Sachare is an intern for the Office of Academic and Research Programs at the Earth Institute. She is a student at Barnard College and will graduate in 2014 with a degree in Environmental Policy.

Columbia campus skyline with text Columbia Climate School Class Day 2024 - Congratulations Graduates

Congratulations to our Columbia Climate School MA in Climate & Society Class of 2024! Learn about our May 10 Class Day celebration. #ColumbiaClimate2024

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments