2nd Symposium on Advances in Geospatial Technologies for Health
25–29 August 2013, Hilton Crystal City Hotel, Arlington, Virginia

Technical Sessions

View the Technical Program:

Arsenic and other toxic oxyanions in the environment (ARSENIC)

Organizers:  Dibyendu Sarkar ( and Rupali Datta (

Keynote: Prosun Bhattacharya, KTH, Sweden

Description: Oxyanions of certain elements, such as arsenic, chromium, selenium, etc. are harmful to humans and other living organisms. This multi-disciplinary session intends to serve as a broad platform to promote discussion on the environmental behavior of these toxic oxyanions, and their ultimate impact on human and ecosystem health. Potential topics include, but are not limited to geochemical fate, transport, and remediation of these oxyanions in contaminated systems, health issues arising from chronic exposure to these contaminants, trophic transfer of the contaminants through the food web, social impact studies, and relevant epidemiological observations.


Biogeochemical Biomarkers of Human Health (BIOMARKERS)

Organizers: Ariel Anbar,

Description: Many disease states are associated with detectable perturbations of the metabolisms of the chemical elements. These perturbations may be detected as changes in element abundances or isotope compositions, using techniques developed by geochemists. This session focuses on the practical potential of such "biogeochemical biomarkers".


Children’s Health and the Environment (CHILD)

Organizers: Heather Gingerich,

Description:  This session will explore the differences between children and adults and the ramification of those differences in terms of how children interact with their environment and how environmental toxicants impact on the health of children. We will explore how place influences the health of children. Medical geology impacts on children’s health


Climate Change and Human Health (CLIMATE)

Organizer: Suzette Morman,

Globally, public health concerns regarding climate related changes such as desertification and the associated long range as well as local health effects are escalating. This multidisciplinary session will focus on how the changing climate will influence many areas of population health.  Examples of climate related changes that influence human health include: a decrease in air quality (asthma); meteorological effects (cardiovascular disease and heatstroke) including extreme weather events (floods); and biological impacts (increased incidence of vector or water borne disease; reemerging diseases e.g. coccidiomycosis).


Environmental Chemistry

Organizers: Saverio Fiore,


Environmental exposure to asbestos and other natural fibers (ASBESTOS)

Organizer: Eduardo Capitani,

Description: This session will address the geologic and anthropogenic factors related to community exposure to naturally occurring asbestos and other mineral fibers. The epidemiology of human health effects regarding lung cancer and pleural mesothelioma will be discussed. Preventive aspects regarding medical geology input will be emphasized.


Energy related health issues (ENERGY)

Organizers: Tee Guidotti,

Description: Energy technologies have many health implications, both in direct terms of health and safety and indirect effects through energy and economic policy, urban and regional development, and influences on transportation modalities. Fossil fuel development presents a number of direct environmental and occupational health issues, which tend to be driven by source characteristics (such as hydrogen sulfide in natural gas, arsenic or mercury in coal). “Green” (sustainable) technologies for energy generation are not free of health issues but with the exception of photovoltaic technologies, their health risk profiles are mostly similar to construction projects and fixed installations of other kinds. This session will emphasize direct effects associated with characteristics of natural sources but other risks will be addressed.


Characterization and Health Impact of Natural and Anthropogenic Dust (DUST)

Organizers: Claire Horwell, and Johann Engelbrecht,

Description: Natural and anthropogenic dust can both carry particles that have an important impact on human health. Characterizing these particles by size, shape and composition provides critical information regarding both the source and the potential health risk associated with dust, as does understanding the processes governing the generation and movement of dust. This session aims to include topics such as novel analytical techniques and the influence of global climate change and increased urbanization.


Health impacts of global artisanal mining (MINING)

Organizers: Geoff Plumlee,

Description: Artisanal (subsistence) mining and ore processing is practiced by millions of people worldwide, primarily in low-income countries. Mercury amalgamation extraction by artisanal gold miners is well known for its adverse impacts on environment and health. However, health impacts from exposures to other metal toxicants such as lead are increasingly being recognized, such as the recent fatal outbreak of lead poisoning associated with gold ore processing in northwestern Nigeria. This session solicits presentations covering geology, public health, mitigation/remediation, social sciences, public policy, and other aspects of this important global issue.  


Health risks assessment of hydraulic fracking for gas recovery (FRACKING)

Session Organizers: Robert Beauchamp,, Avner Vengosh,

Description: Hydraulic fracking is a drilling technology that is currently being used to extract natural gas from sedimentary formations in the U.S.  While this technology has been used for several years in western parts of the U.S., it is only in the early stages of planning and implementation in eastern parts of the U.S. Concerns over possible groundwater and air pollution have risen in earnest by local communities.


Holistics for Health

Organizer: David Lary,

Description: Holistics for Health brings together large databases from multiple sources including the geosciences to address health issues and impacts on life expectancy resulting from: water quality, global dust sources, climate change, military activities, and more. Human health is part of a interdependent multifaceted system. More than ever we have increasingly large amounts of data on the body, its systems and our environment.



Organizers: Laura Ruhl Laura Ruhl,, and Brittany Merola

Description: During this session, International Medical Geology Association Chapters will present information on their organization, research activities, and chapter activities (short courses and others) in their respective countries. This is an opportunity to showcase your chapter’s activities, learn from other chapters, as well as welcome the new chapters to the IMGA community.


ISPRS Sponsored Sessions

Organizers: Fazlay Faruque,


  • Climate Variability and Health
  • Tele-Epidemiology
  • Environmental Public Health Surveillance
  • Infectious and Vector-borne Diseases
  • Air-borne, Soil-borne and Water-borne Diseases
  • Air Pollution Modeling for Health Impact Studies
  • Earth Observing Data and Tools for Health Studies
  • Big Data Analysis in Public Health Research


Legacy of natural disasters (DISASTERS)

Organizers: Stanley Williams,, Claire Horwell,

Description: Natural disasters have had serious impact on human health for generations and scientists have attempted to forecast hazards with goals to mitigate their socio-economic impact. Communication of hazards to local authorities and to the public is critical, especially in developing countries. Papers are invited that present examples and new perspectives in mitigating impacts of volcanoes, earthquakes, floods and other natural disasters.


Medical Geography (GEOGRAPHY)

Organizers: Joseph Oppong,

Description: Medical geography, also called health geographics, studies locational influences on health. The physical and human environment, including climate, soils, cultural practices, and socioeconomic status all impact human health. Papers are invited that address the effects of locale on the health of populations. Studies of communicable diseases such as tuberculosis or non-communicable diseases such as heart disease particularly using Geographic Information Systems are invited.


Mercury and Environmental Health: Paleo-historical, Legacy and Contemporary Effects and Challenges (MERCURY)

Description: This session will examine the uses of mercury from pre-historical times to the present, and the health effects that have resulted from its use.


The Emerging Field of Military Medical Geology (MILITARY)

Conveners: José A. Centeno,, Mark B. Lyles,

Description: Military Medical Geology can be considered a complement of environmental medicine dealing with the impact of the natural geologic materials and geologic processes on the incidence and spatial/temporal distribution of human and animal diseases. Among the environmental health problems that military medical scientists are working with the environmental/geosciences community are: exposure to toxic metals such as arsenic, mercury, uranium, tungsten; exposure to naturally occurring organic compounds in drinking and soils; and exposure to natural dusts. Dust particles are a widely dispersed component of the Earth’s atmosphere, often forming extensive plumes that derive from volcanoes, dust storms, long-range transport episodes of desert dust, and displacement through natural processes such as landslides and earthquakes. These phenomena occur on all the major continents, including mobilization of Saharan dust to southern Europe and the Americas, and of more relevant to US deployed Troops is the dust generated from desert regions in Iraq, Kuwait, Afghanistan and Pakistan. In this session, we provide an overview of military medical geology issues with particular emphasis on the health effects from exposure to toxic metals, particulate matter (dust), and environmental pathogens.


Nano-Particles and Nanoscience in Medical Geology (NANO)

Organizers: Wen-An Ciou and Lynda Williams,

Description: Naturally occurring and man-made nano-particles are ubiquitous on earth. The wide use of these nano-particles in our daily lives has led to increased interest in nanomaterials and nanotechnology. Understanding the beneficial and detrimental potential of nano-particles requires expanding the characterization of nano-particles, their interactions with different environments, and the processes that govern their form, stability, and reactivity. This session will present research on nanomaterials in the fields of: geology, mineralogy, geochemistery, engineering, biology, and the medical sciences.


Occupational health issues (OCCUPATION)

Organizers: Xi Huang,, Anthony S. Laney (NIOSH)

Description: Other than the home environment, the workplace is the setting in which many people spend the largest proportion of their time. Although work contributes to good health and economic achievements, the work environment exposes many workers to health hazards that contribute to various occupational diseases. In this session, we will focus on respiratory diseases, cancer, musculoskeletal disorders and present novel findings that could be translated into practice and lead to the reduction in these diseases.


Radioactivity, Geology and Human Health (RADIOACTIVE)

Organizers: Malcolm Siegel,, Zoltan Szabo,

Description: Concentrations of carcinogenic radium and nephrotoxic uranium are naturally high in rocks and waters in many parts of the world.  Development of mineral resources, oil and gas production, mineralized deep groundwater resources and other activities have led to significant exposures to these and other radioactive substances via inhalation, ingestion and dermal routes.  Studies of health effects and biomonitoring related to background radioactivity provide important baselines for evaluation of the impacts of anthropogenic pollution.  Evaluation of health effects due to past and potential future exposures has political, social and economic implications and requires collaboration among earth scientists, civil engineers and health professionals.  This session will bring together researchers from academic, government and private agencies to discuss inter-related biomedical/geoscience studies relevant to topics such as past and proposed uranium mining, regulation and disposal of naturally-occurring radioactive materials and the technical bases and impacts of new drinking water regulations for radionuclides.  


Soils in medical geology (SOILS)

Organizers: Gabriel Filipelli,; Brenda Buck,; Cliff Johnston,

Description: Soils have varied geochemistries and mineralogies, affecting their potential to interact positively, and negatively, with human physiologies. Of particular concern is the property of soils to serve as repositories for harmful contaminants, and to cause significant human health risks through direct exposure and through the production of dust from soils. This session will explore the interactions between soils and the human physiology, with a goal of quantifying soil-human interactions on the individual or population scale.



Urban medical geology: integrating geologic and anthropogenic processes (URBAN)

Organizers: Howard Mielke,; Ed de Mulder,

Description: Most humans live in cities and towns which are systems that integrate geologic and anthropogenic processes.  Inputs include a wide range of materials that are transformed to build, power, nurture, and sustain urban populations. This session deals with characteristics that advance, worsen or remedy human well-being and health within urban settings.


Veterinary geology (VET)

Organizers: Jan Myburgh,

Description: The health, production and reproduction of livestock and wildlife could be affected by local geological anomalies and anthropogenic environmental changes. For this session, the ideal situation is not only to get international scientists together to present their “Veterinary Geology” findings, but also to discuss and debate interesting ideas and issues: the effects of geological anomalies and geochemistry on animal health; bioavailability of elements, soil-plant-animal interactions, trace element deficiencies or imbalances, poisoning of animals, heavy metal contamination due to mining and refining activities, geophagia, geochemical mapping, groundwater quality, public health issues, etc.


Water and human health (WATER)

Organizers: Giora Rytwo,

Description: Geology water and health are tightly related. Fluorides, arsenic and selenium are well known cases, but other and more indirect interactions also occur. For example the use of fertilizers and pesticides in agriculture reach man via water supply. Use of pharmaceuticals in the household may leach from wastewater treatment plants reaching water sources, and influencing the health of large communities. This session will focus on studies of the hydrosphere and geosphere impacts on the anthrosphere, highlighting methods to improve quality of life and minimize health risks.


General Session (GENERAL)