Plenary Speakers

Dieke Postma
Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland (GEUS), Copenhagen, Denmark

Kinetics of redox processes and their effect on the arsenic content of groundwater

Dr. Dieke Postma is a Groundwater Geochemist and affiliated to the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland (GEUS) as a Senior Researcher since 2008. Prior to joining GEUS, he has worked as Associate Professor in the Technical University of Denmark  and at the University of Copenhagen since 1979. He has an extensive experience in working on redox processes in groundwater for more than 30 years. During the past decade, he has worked in the field of groundwater arsenic problems in Vietnam. Dr Postma has published more than 90 scientific publications including 40 in ISI journal papers with a total of more than 1700 Journal citations. He has co-authored the textbook “Geochemistry, Groundwatr and Pollution” together with Dr. C.A.J. Appelo, first edition published 1993, reprinted 1994, 1996 and 1999 and the second edition published 2005 by A.A.Balkema Publishers, Netherland. Which has more than 1100 ISI citations. 

Yong-Guan Zhu
Institute of Urban Environment, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Xiamen, P.R. China

Arsenic biotransformation: from genes to biogeochemical cycling

Dr Yongguan (Y-G) Zhu, Professor of Soil Environmental Sciences and Environmental Biology, currently works in the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), he is the director general of the Institute of Urban Environment, CAS. He has been working on soil-plant interactions, with special emphasis on rhizosphere microbiology, biogeochemistry of nutrients, metals and emerging pollutants (such as antibiotics and antibiotic resistance genes). Professor Zhu is a leader in taking multi-scale and multi-disciplinary approaches to soil and environmental problems, for example his systematic contribution to the understanding of the dynamics of arsenic in soil-plant systems and human health impacts. Before returning to China in 2002, he was working as a research fellow (Supported by the Royal Society London) in the Queen's University of Belfast, UK (1994-1995); and a postdoctoral fellow in The University of Adelaide (1998-2002), Australia. He obtained his BSc in soil science from Zhejiang Agricultural University in 1989, and MSc in soil science from the Institute of Soil Science, CAS in 1992, and then a PhD in environmental biology from Imperial College, London in 1998.

Dr Zhu is currently the co-editor-in-chief of Environmental Technology & Innovation (Elsevier), associate editor of Environment International (Elsevier), and editorial members for many international journals, such as New Phytologist, Trends in Plant Science, Applied and Environmental Microbiology, Environmental Science and Pollution Research. Professor Zhu has been influential in shaping global policies related to food safety, such as setting the global rice arsenic standard. He is a scientific committee member for the ICSU program on Human Health and Wellbeing in Changing Urban Environment, and served for nine years as a member of Standing Advisory Group for Nuclear Application, International Atomic Energy Agency (2004-2012).

Professor Zhu is the recipient of many international and Chinese merit awards, among them including TWAS Science Award 2013, National Natural Science Award 2009; Professor Zhu has published more than 200 papers in international journals, and these publications have attracted over 8000 citations (Web of Science).

Andy Meharg
Professor of Plant and Soil Science, Institute for Global Food Security, Queen's University, Belfast, Ireland

Arsenic and rice: the problems and the potential solutions

Andy Meharg is Chair of Plant and Soil Science at the Institute for Global Food Security, Queen’s University Belfast. He has been researching arsenic and plants for over 25 years, initially looking at how wild plants adapt to very arsenic contaminated soils. As issues regarding arsenic in SE Asia started to arise in the 1990s he turned his attention to rice culture. From early experiments and surveys it was clear that rice was problematic with respect to arsenic due to high inorganic arsenic found in grain. He has concentrated his research on understanding the arsenic rice-soil systems biogeochemistry, and on understanding the consequences for human consumption. Developing mitigation strategies for removing inorganic arsenic from rice is a priority of his research.

Karin Broberg
Professor, Institute of Environmental Medicine (IMM), Metals and Health, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden 

Genetics determines arsenic metabolism and toxicity

Karin Broberg’s research deals with changes in the main gene for arsenic metabolism, AS3MT, as the cause of variation in arsenic metabolism efficiency and toxicity. Her results suggest that people have adapted to arsenic via an increase in the frequency of protective variants of AS3MT. The study is a striking example of how humans have been able to adapt to local, sometimes harmful, environmental conditions. Those who survived the exposure to arsenic lived longer and had more children. The protective gene variants are today very common in some regions of the Andes with natural arsenic contamination of the drinking water. This is the first example of adaptation to a toxic environment in man. 
Her study shows that there are not only extra-susceptible individuals, but also individuals who are particularly tolerant to environmental toxicants. This phenomenon is probably not unique to arsenic, but also applies to other toxicants in food and the environment, to which humans have been exposed for a long time. The results also highlight the necessity to be observant and not base health risk assessments for chemicals on data from people who may have strong genetic tolerance to the particular chemical".
See further:

Richard Paul Johnston
Technical Officer, Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation (JMP), Department of Public Health, Social and Environmental Determinants of Health, World Health Organization, Geneva, Switzerland

Arsenic in the post-2015 global development agenda (2015-2030)

Richard Johnston’s work focus on the arsenic and otehr geogenic contaminants in drinking water with in the broader framework of the post-2015 global development agenda (2015-2030). This also entails  monitoring and interventions required to improve water quality, focusing on arsenic and fluoride as the two key chemicals of concern. 

Ana Navas-Acien
Associate Professor, John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland, USA

Arsenic and Cardiovascular Disease: 100 Years Advancing Epidemiologic Research

Ana Navas-Acien is a physician-epidemiologist with a specialty in Preventive Medicine and Public Health (Hospital La Paz, Madrid ’01) and a PhD in Epidemiology (Johns Hopkins University ’05). She is a faculty member in the Departments of Environmental Health Sciences and Epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Her research investigates the long-term health effects of environmental chemicals, including arsenic, their interactions with genetic and epigenetic variants, and effective interventions for reducing the health effects of widespread environmental exposures. She is the principal investigator of the Strong Heart Metal Study, one of the major population based-studies investigating the long-term consequences of low-to-moderate exposure to arsenic.