Superfund Research Program

February 2024

Ana Navas-Acien
Navas-Acien is a professor of environmental health sciences at Columbia University. (Photo courtesy of Timothy Lee / Columbia University)

Ana Navas-Acien, M.D., Ph.D., grew up in a desert-like area of Spain called Almeria where drinking water was scarce. For years, her parents relied on a rainwater collection system called an aljibe for drinking and cooking. These early experiences planted a seed.

Today, Navas-Acien is the director of the Columbia University Superfund Research Program (SRP) Center, where she leads research efforts to improve drinking water quality in American Indian communities. The NIEHS Environmental Factor recently spoke with Navas-Acien to learn more about her journey to uncover the health effects of metals, how she’s overcome career setbacks, and the interdisciplinary nature of environmental health.

“I've become really interested in better understanding the connection between metals, including essential metals, and brain health, especially cognitive- and dementia-related outcomes,” Navas-Acien said. “I want to continue to move science into action, so that it reaches policymakers and influences clinical guidelines, educational interventions, and public health programs.”

To learn more, see the NIEHS Environmental Factor newsletter.