USC Environmental Health News Release – LA Airport air pollution effects worse than expected + June 26 EJ Workshops + Community Forum on public health, smart growth and urban planning

This excellent news release was in this morning’s inbox.  The University of Southern California (USC), which has contributed several participants to the Moving Forward Network, is doing amazing work.

Two things struck me:

USC’s ground breaking research on LAX particulate matter air pollution (PM), Emissions from an International Airport Increase Particle Number
Concentrations 4‑fold at 10 km Downwind, shows that the environmental health impacts of the airport on Los Angeles residents are much worse than had been assumed.  It seems likely that other major airports in cities around the country have similar effects.  State and local governments should provide the facts on air pollution high risk zones, so affected residents can protect themselves and their children, and everyone can make informed decisions when selecting housing.

Airplane pollution
Source: LA Times

The “Collision of Best Intentions” workshop (agenda here) was an eye-opener. As Andrea Hricko shows in her presentation What Do We Mean by the Collision of Best Intentions, sites for transit-oriented development projects, schools, low-income housing, and industrial facilities are often made with little consideration for public health, with potentially disastrous consequences. By bringing together public health experts and planners in a collaborative event, the workshop educated participants and encouraged more consideration of health impacts in urban planning.  This will almost certainly lead to better decisions for future projects in Southern California.  Might a similar event improve decision making in other regions?

USC Environmental Health : NEWS RELEASE: Research raises new concerns about air pollution impacts at Los Angeles International Airport

 (and 3 articles)
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Posted on: Thursday 29 May 2014 — 18:47

Study shows air quality from ultrafine particles extends further than demonstrated by previous research

PRESS COVERAGE: Los Angeles Times , Daily Breeze

    LOS ANGELES — For the first time, research conducted by scientists at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California (USC) shows that airliner activity at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) worsens air quality over a far larger area than previously assumed.

    The study, to be published Thursday in the journal Environmental Science and Technology (ES&T) and conducted with University of Washington (UW) researchers, found a doubling of ultrafine particle number concentrations extended east more than 10 miles downwind from the airport boundary over a 20-square mile area, encompassing communities including Lennox, Westmont, parts of South L.A., Hawthorne and Inglewood, and, in certain wind conditions, areas south of LAX.

    “Our research shows that airport impacts extend more than 5 times further than previously assumed,” said Scott Fruin, D. Env., lead researcher and assistant  professor of preventive medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC.  “Effects from planes that are landing appear to play a major role in this large area of impact.”

    To put this large area of impact into perspective, the researchers calculated that one-quarter to one-half of the entire L.A. County freeway system produces an equivalent increase in ultrafine particle numbers on a concentration-weighted basis.

    Graphic depicting ultrafine particle increase downwind of LAX relative to urban background air quality

    “LAX may be as important to L.A.’s air quality as the freeway system,” said Fruin. “The impact area is large, and the airport is busy most hours of the day. That makes it uniquely hard for people to avoid the effects of air pollution in affected areas.”

    Most previous research on the air quality impacts of airports focused on measuring air quality near where jet takeoffs occur. Takeoffs produce immense plumes of exhaust but only intermittently, and pollution concentrations downwind have been observed to fall off rapidly with distance. The assumption has been that total airport impacts also fall off rapidly with distance. The new research finds that this assumption is wrong.

    The study found that concentrations of ultrafine particles were more than double over 20 square miles compared to background concentrations in nearby areas outside the area of LAX impact. Also, ultrafine particle number concentrations four times higher than background extended a distance of six miles.

    “Given the existing concern about the possible health effects of urban ultrafine particle levels, living in an area with two to four times the average L.A. levels of ultrafine particles is of high public health concern,” said first author Neelakshi Hudda, Ph.D., research associate in preventive medicine at the Keck School.

    Ultrafine particles are currently unregulated, but are of concern because they appear to be more toxic than larger particles on an equal mass basis in animal and cellular studies, and because they appear able to enter the bloodstream, unlike large particles that lodge in the lungs.

    The research team used vehicles equipped with special measurement devices to capture data not available using traditional fixed monitors. The team was able to take moving measurements for more than 5 hours under consistent wind conditions to fully capture the extent of the impact boundaries.

    “Other airports generally have less steady wind directions, which would make these measurements more difficult,” said Hudda. “Similar impacts are probably happening, but their location likely shifts more rapidly than in Los Angeles.”

    “The on-shore westerly winds cause this impact regularly in communities east of LAX, because the impact’s location corresponds to the wind direction,” Hudda added. “In the winter months, when the winds were different, impacts were measured south of the airport during northerly winds.”

    UW researchers included Tim Larson, Ph.D. and Tim Gould, Ph.D. in the Department of Civil Engineering, and Kris Hartin, Ph.D. in the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences.

    UW researchers included Tim Larson, Ph.D. and Tim Gould, Ph.D. in the Department of Civil Engineering, and Kris Hartin, Ph.D. in the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences.


    Hudda, N., Gould, T., Hartin, K. Larson, T.V., and Fruin, S. A. (2014). Environmental Science and Technology,Published online May 29, 2014;


    Keck Medicine of USC is the University of Southern California’s medical enterprise, one of only two university-owned academic medical centers in the Los Angeles area. Encompassing academic, research and clinical entities, it consists of the Keck School of Medicine of USC, the region’s first medical school; the renowned USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center, one of the first comprehensive cancer centers established in the United States; the USC Care Medical Group, the medical faculty practice; the Keck Medical Center of USC, which includes two acute care hospitals: 401-licensed bed Keck Hospital of USC and 60-licensed bed USC Norris Cancer Hospital; and USC Verdugo Hills Hospital, a 158-licensed bed community hospital. It also includes outpatient facilities in Beverly Hills, downtown Los Angeles, La Cañada Flintridge, Pasadena, and the USC University Park Campus. USC faculty physicians and Keck School of Medicine departments also have practices throughout Los Angeles and Orange counties. The Keck Medicine of USC world-class medical facilities are staffed by nearly 600 physicians who are faculty at the renowned Keck School of Medicine of USC and part of USC Care Medical Group. They are not only clinicians, but cutting-edge researchers, leading professors and active contributors to national and international professional medical societies and associations. For more information, go to


    Contact: Leslie Ridgeway at (323) 442-2823 or
    For a copy of the study, contact Environmental Science and Technology at (phone or email)

    USC Health Sciences Public Relations & Marketing
    1975 Zonal Avenue, KAM 400, Los Angeles, California 90033
    Tel 323.442.2830
    Fax 323.442.2832

    Posted on: Wednesday 28 May 2014 — 22:25

    Five Southern California groups are excited to announce a new partnership to jointly sponsor an inaugural Environmental Justice Summer Institute (EJSI):

    • USC Environmental Health,
    • Asian and Pacific Islander Obesity Prevention Alliance (APIOPA),
    • From Lot to Spot (FLTS),
    • Social Justice Learning Institute (SJLI),
    • Cal State Fullerton Department of Health Science.

    This five week, 14-session summer program will begin on June 26, 2014. ESJI was created to engage a diverse group of 15 local high school youth from Lennox, Hawthorne and Inglewood, around environmental health and environmental justice issues.

    This EJSI curriculum is focused on educating, engaging, and empowering the youth to be agents of change in their own neighborhoods.
    • Educate: Youth will learn about environmental justice and its disproportionate impact on people of color communities through workshops, presentations, and community tours.
    • Engage: Youth will participate in an interactive workshop with urban planner James Rojas and conduct on-the-ground monitoring and mapping.  With partners USC and Cal State Fullerton, the youth will develop hands-on experience to not only map out and identify highly polluted locations in their own neighborhoods, but to also have an opportunity to use air and noise monitoring equipment to track pollution levels.
    • Empower: Throughout the program, the youth will work with Digital Rain Factory on digital storytelling to educate and engage their communities around the environmental concerns they have. The digital stories they create will also be used to advocate to their local elected officials, for changes they identify are needed through their summer program.

    Curriculum to be covered: 
    • Researching environmental justice in our community
    • Becoming environmental justice youth leaders
    • Learning how to make videos for a cause
    • Monitoring air and noise levels
    • Informing public policy 101: The low down on our local policies
    • Being a dynamic speaker
    • Engaging the Community

    Stay tuned for more exciting details of this pilot program! Search #EJSIFellows on Twitter to keep up on the latest developments, photos and more.

    The EJSI is partially supported by USC’s Children’s Environmental Health Center, which is funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences  and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

    Environmental Justice Summer Institute partner organizations on Twitter:

    Posted on: Thursday 22 May 2014 — 22:21
    This post looks back over the past couple of months and highlights members of our Centers who have been featured or quoted in the news…

    Posted on: Friday 23 May 2014 — 23:24

    On April 9, 2014 the Southern California Environmental Health Sciences Center (SCEHSC), SC-Children’s Environmental Health Center (SC-CEHC) & National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) hosted “The Community Forum: The Collision of Best Intentions.” This 2.5 hour event was attended by approximately 150 individuals representing Los Angeles area community-based organizations (CBOs) and environmental justice (EJ) groups, NIEHS (National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences) center directors from around the U.S. and staff of NIEHS Community Outreach and Engagement Core (COEC) programs, appointed park and planning commissioners, graduate students from UCLA’s Master’s in Urban Planning program and UCLA’s Community Scholars program, and interested community members.

    The forum brought together stakeholders around environmental health issues, particularly concerns about air pollution’s impacts on health and the epidemic of childhood obesity. Through a series of short presentations, a foundation was set to help attendees understand: 

    • – the public health dilemma of incompatible land use decisions;
    • – how we can achieve physical activity and other health benefits from building transit-oriented development (TOD) while also considering near roadway air pollution; and
    • – the need for considering public health as we develop community gardens, urban parks, more walkable streets and new bicycle lanes. 

    Presenters and their topics included:

    Welcoming comments:  Dr. Linda Birnbaum, Director of the NIEHS

    What We Mean by the “Collision of Best Intentions:” Andrea Hricko, Director of the Community Outreach and Engagement Program of the SCEHSC and Professor of Preventive Medicine at USC

    Why Different Perspectives are Colliding: Maria Cabildo, co-founder and president of East LA Community Corporation, L.A. Planning Commission

    Near Roadway Air Pollution, Asthma and Obesity: Challenges for Urban Planning: Rob McConnell, Deputy Director of the SCEHSC, Director of the SC-CEHC and Professor of Preventive Medicine at USC

    Introduction to Case Studies from the Community: Kafi D. Blumenfield, president emeritus of the Liberty Hill Foundation and member of the Los Angeles City Recreation and Parks Commission

    No Mitigations or Solutions are Perfect; Here are Some Approaches: Doug Houston, Assistant Professor of Planning, Policy & Design at the School for Social Ecology, University of California, Irvine

    As primary organizers of the event, Andrea Hricko and Carla Truax of the SCEHSC & SC-CEHC invited 16 CBOs to participate in a Poster Session that showcased the work that each group is doing around environmental health issues in the greater Los Angeles area.  Midway through the event’s schedule, all participants were invited to view the posters which further engaged attendees and presenters in dialogue around these issues.

    The following southern California organizations participated in the poster session: 

    Advocates4 Clean Air – El Marino
    Asian Pacific Islander Obesity Prevention Alliance
    Ballona Institute
    Coalition for a Safe Environment
    East LA Community Corporation
    East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice
    Environmental Health Coalition
    Esperanza Community Housing Corporation
    From Lot to Spot
    Los Angeles Neighborhood Land Trust
    Move L.A.
    Pacoima Beautiful
    Social Justice Learning Institute
    Strategic Actions for a Just Economy
    Streetsblog LA
    T.R.U.S.T South LA
    Urban & Environmental Policy Institute, Occidental College

    The concluding portion of the event was the open microphone session, during which all attendees were given the opportunity to ask questions, give perspective and feedback and set the stage for continued dialogue, interaction and collaboration around environmental health, smart growth and urban planning issues.  Serving as moderator, Jean Armbruster, Director of the L.A. County Department of Public Health’s “PLACE Program” (Policies for Livable Active Communities and Environments), briefly summarized the presentations provided and guided participants into the open microphone session.  It proved to be a time for attendees to ask questions, provide thoughtful ideas (e.g., why not reduce the number of cars on certain streets near schools than worry about school set-backs?) – and it promised further engagement around the environmental health issues being highlighted throughout the event.

    The Community Forum sponsors thank The California Wellness Foundation and The Kresge Foundation for additional funding.

    Also see this summary article that includes the Community Forum: on the NIEHS Environmental Health Sciences Core Centers annual meeting, hosted by the University of Southern California (USC) April 7-9 in Los Angeles. 

    by Wendy Gutschow 

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