New faculty member Jill Johnston, PhD, has joined the Environmental Health Centers and will direct the Outreach program starting in the New Year. Dr. Johnston brings extensive community experience and research skills. Broadly, her research focuses on addressing unequal exposures to harmful contaminants that affect the health of working poor and communities of color. Dr. Johnston worked as a community organizer on issues of environmental and economic justice in South Texas since 2003. Most recently, she worked at the Gillings School of Public Health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with Dr. Steve Wing to examine disparities in exposure to industrial animal operations. She will continue to collaborative with grassroots organizations to conduct community-engaged action-oriented research at USC to support environmental justice.
USC Environmental Health Professor Ed Avol provides his undergraduate students with a variety of opportunities to learn more about environmental impacts in communities in and around Los Angeles. This past semester, Avol arranged an optional tour of the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach for interested students. Guided by several port activists, students were shown how cargo-related activities in and around the ports have impacted frontline communities for decades.
“Hearing about the port communities in class was one thing, but seeing them first hand was completely different. To be at the ports and understand the extent of the problems they face was an eye opening experience,” commented student Sharon Zhang. Zhang, who maintains a personal photo blog, documented her experience on the tour. Click here to see her collection of photos that document the tour experience.
“Here’s a neighborhood across from port storage about a mile and a half from the actual ports, where diesel trucks funnel in and out every single day, 24/7 on the narrow two lane road that separates the residents from the giant storage boxes. Because of the disparity in our imports and exports, these shipping containers are actually empty, waiting to be sent out.” -Sharon Zhang
An important milestone in the journey toward a healthy environment for residents living near ports is taking place: the Moving Forward Network has launched a campaign focused on promoting zero emission technologies to reduce diesel emissions and meet clean air standards.
The Outreach Program at USC Environmental Health has been part of coalitions since 2005 working to reduce the health impacts of international trade. With the Trade, Health and Environment Impact Project (coalition based in Southern California), the nationwide Moving Forward Network was developed to share knowledge on the impacts of goods movement and strategies for preventing and reducing those impacts. The Outreach Program is a member as an ally organization, providing assistance on environmental health information.
Outreach program co-director Andrea Hricko was quoted about the achievement of programs to lower emissions from port operations. “We know in L.A. kids’ lungs have gotten better as air pollution has dropped.”
Also included in the story are the perspectives of many members of the Moving Forward Network, a coalition dedicated to improving public health for communities. Professor Robert Laumbach of Rutgers’ Robert Wood Johnson School of Medicine stated “When there’s a technology available that controls it, why do we accept these risks for diesel exhaust?” In Los Angeles, goods movement facilities are “diesel magnets,” says Angelo Logan, policy lead for the Moving Forward Network. Organizer Kim Gaddy, with Clean Water Action in New Jersey, is a member of the network fighting increasing freight and truck traffic in neighborhoods. California has been a leader with programs for cleaner trucks and port operations, and testing new technology to further reduce pollution. The national strategy of the Moving Forward Network seeks to improve the air for all port and freight operations around the country.
On November 11, more than 50 people attended the community-based research symposium hosted by USC Environmental Health to hear about several organizations’ projects related to air quality, traffic, and other health issues.
The goal of the event was to share information about community-based research projects, and build relationships between organizations. Five organizations hosted tables with materials and gave presentations. Participants learned about the communities in which they work, the methods and tools that were used in their community research projects, and lessons to share with the other groups. In addition, ideas for future projects were identified as well as ways to incorporate information into ongoing campaigns and programs.
The event was hosted by the Trade, Health, and Environment Impact Project, and the Southern California Environmental Health Sciences Centers based at USC. Thanks to the Kresge Foundation for its support of this event.
LENNOX, CA – Saturday November 7 kicked off an early at Lennox Park, the start of a tour hosted by the Empowerment Congress’ Environmental Committee. Twenty three members of the committee and community residents joined. The tour aimed to show places where organizations and the County 2nd District Supervisor’s office are making progress toward environmental equity in the District.
Walking through Lennox Park, guided by members of the Asian and Pacific Islander Obesity Prevention Alliance (APIOPA), to see the new walking path, fitness equipment, lighting, and baseball field, the group agreed that these improvements make residents feel safer and welcome in coming to the park. The tour bus then took the group to the Lennox Community Garden, a project of From Lot to Spot to create space for community members to grow fresh vegetables.
At Norman O. Houston Park in Baldwin Hills, the tour joined the Park to Playa event and planted several fruit trees. Tour participants also had the opportunity to meet Los Angeles County 2nd District Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas.
Heading north to Koreatown, the tour stopped in Seoul International Park, one of the very few parks in the neighborhood that holds the largest number of people per acre in Los Angeles. Koreatown Youth Community Center discussed the air monitoring project with USC to find out more about traffic pollution in the area.
The final spot was a demonstration of a hanging garden put together by the Koreatown Youth Community Center, a Green Graffiti Abatement Installation made of reused bottles and succulent plants.
On April 8, James Merchant, MD, DrPH, was awarded the first annual John Peters Lectureship for outstanding contributions to environmental health sciences. Dr. Merchant is a professor of occupational and environmental health and served as the founding Dean of the University of Iowa College of Public Health from 1999 to 2008. He is a renowned expert on occupational and environmental health, rural health, and public health policy.
The John Peters Lectureship program was developed to continue the scientific legacy of groundbreaking epidemiologist and founding director of the Southern California Environmental Health Sciences Center, Dr. John Peters.
The inaugural lecture was presented at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel in downtown Los Angeles to 140 prominent members of the environmental health sciences community. In a skillfully crafted lecture, Dr. Merchant successfully merged a comprehensive overview of a generation of research on urban and rural asthma with anecdotal stories and heartfelt remarks about his longtime colleague and friend, Dr. Peters.
Dr. Merchant described research that began in Keokuk County, Iowa where he and his colleagues explored the respiratory impacts of agricultural and environmental exposures among rural residents with a focus on childhood asthma. He went on to describe asthma research in the urban environment of Southern California, including the USC Children’s Health Study and the work of the Southern California Environmental Health Sciences Center which continues to investigate the health effects of air pollution on Los Angeles youth.
In a presentation, equal parts heartfelt and scientifically invigorating, Dr. Merchant’s lecture concluded with an emphasis on the importance of translating scientific findings into policy changes. He received a standing ovation from the audience.
Thomas Smith, PhD, Professor Emeritus of Industrial Hygiene in the Department of Environmental Health at the Harvard School of Public Health provided introductory remarks at the lecture. Dr. Smith shared kind words about his personal and professional experiencewith his close friend and collaborator, Dr. Peters.
The John Peters Fund was founded in 2009 to support research and educational activities in environmental health within the Department of Preventive Medicine at the Keck School of Medicine.
By Kristin Dessie