Environmental Health Research Pilot Project Grants: Up to $50,000 available

The Southern California Environmental Health Sciences Center (SCEHSC, scehsc.usc.edu) is pleased to announce the 2018 Pilot Projects Program, supporting one-year research projects that aim to promote the understanding of environmental exposures and human disease. The goal of the program is to provide investigators with an opportunity to collect preliminary data and/or validate the utility of specific methods or techniques to establish the feasibility of larger-scale research projects and ultimately seek external (especially NIEHS) funding.

The SCEHSC is seeking investigator-initiated applications from all environmental health research areas.  Topics of special interest include:

  •   New Approaches for Exposure Assessment
  • New Approaches for Environmental Disaster Response Research
  • Climate Change and Environmental Health
  • Environment, Neurodevelopment, and Neurological Diseases
  • Environmental Contributions to Obesity and Metabolic Dysfunction
  • Application of Metabolomics to Environmental Health Research
  • Complex Mixtures in Environmental Health
  • Human Microbiome and the Environment
  • Individuals with a faculty appointment in any department or school/division at USC, CHLA, UCLA, or Caltech are eligible to apply.Request for Applications (RFA)
    Prospective applicants will submit a one-page letter of intent (LOI) and a one-page summary of Specific Aims (SA).  The LOI will include the project title, a brief summary of project objectives and identification of the key participating investigators.  All proposed projects should have a clear and identifiable environmental health emphasis.

    Please e-mail Letters of Intent and Specific Aims by the LOI deadline to lisa.wolff@usc.edu. Successful LOI applicants will be invited to submit a full proposal.  Instructions for full proposal submission can be found on the SCEHSC website under the Pilot Projects tab:  https://scehsc.usc.edu

Deadlines and Notification Schedule
October 2, 2017 at 5 PM: Letter of Intent and Specific Aims Due
October 16, 2017: Invitations to Submit Full Application Sent
November 6, 2017 at 5 PM: Full Applications Due
January 2018: Award Notifications Sent
April 1, 2018: Award Start Date

Air pollution linked to shorter survival time in liver cancer patients

Press coverage: Reuters

New research from the University of Southern California shows higher air pollution exposures are associated with shorter survival times for people diagnosed with liver cancer. Air pollution has already been linked to shortened lung cancer survival, and this study adds to the growing body of evidence indicating that air pollution can affect other cancers too.

The study, published in the International Journal of Cancer, looked at over 20,000 California patients diagnosed with hepatocellular carcinoma, the most common form of liver cancer. “We were interested in the liver since it is the primary organ responsible for detoxification in the body and it could be impacted by exposure to environmental toxins,” said Sandrah Eckel, PhD, assistant professor of Preventive Medicine at the Keck School of Medicine and one of the lead researchers. Since the liver helps filter out toxins from our environment, it may be particularly vulnerable to air pollution.

The researchers focused on tiny particles in the air called particulate matter, the smallest of which measure less than 2.5 microns in diameter (PM2.5). These particles are so small they can travel deep into the lungs and even enter the bloodstream. PM2.5 is often released during fuel combustion, either from individual vehicles or at a large industrial sites like a power plant.

“We found that liver cancer patients living in areas with low PM2.5 tended to live longer than patients living in areas with high PM2.5, particularly for patients who were diagnosed at an early stage” said Dr. Eckel. For example, considering only patients diagnosed early, the median survival time was 2.16 years in the areas with lowest PM2.5 concentrations and 0.07 years in the areas with the highest PM2.5 concentrations. The results were similar after adjusting for potential confounders such as socioeconomic status or when limiting to just deaths from liver cancer.

The associations were strongest in the areas of highest pollution, indicating even minor improvements in air quality can improve health. As lead author Huiyu Deng said, “In places with high air pollution levels, even relatively small reductions could have a substantial health impact.” This could have major implications in other countries, where pollution levels are often much higher than in the United States.

What can you do to reduce your air pollution exposure? Dr. Eckel recommends monitoring your air quality index (airnow.gov) and taking the necessary precautions to protect yourself on poor air quality days, such as staying indoors or closing windows. She also recommends exercising away from busy roadways and setting the air control system in your car to “recirculate.”

The article, “Particulate matter air pollution and liver cancer survival” by Huiyu Deng, Sandrah P. Eckel, Lihua Liu, Frederick W. Lurmann, Myles G. Cockburn, and Frank D. Gilliland (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ijc.30779/abstract) appears in the International Journal of Cancer (published online June 7, 2017).

This work was supported by the Southern California Environmental Health Sciences Center (grant 5P30ES007048) funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences; the Hastings Foundation; the National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results Program under contract HHSN261201000140C awarded to the Cancer Prevention Institute of California, contract HHSN261201000035C awarded to the University of Southern California and contract HHSN261201000034C awarded to the Public Health Institute; and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Program of Cancer Registries, under agreement U58DP003862-01 awarded to the California Department of Public Health.

Green “Nobel Prize” awarded to mark! Lopez by Goldman Foundation

The USC Environmental Health Centers offers its congratulations to mark! Lopez for winning the 2017 Goldman Prize for North America. mark! is Executive Director of East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice, a community organization based in Commerce and Long Beach which is a long-term community partner of USC Environmental Health Centers.  The Goldman Prize honored mark! for his years of activism, and especially for his role in shutting down and trying to clean up contamination from the Exide battery plant – an issue in which Center faculty members Jill Johnston and Andrea Hricko have been deeply involved over the past several years. Hricko commented:  “Through my work on environmental health issues at USC, I have had the opportunity to collaborate with several generations of mark!’s family on issues from traffic pollution and asthma, to the ports, and more recently lead poisoning.  We congratulate mark! and applaud the leadership and inspiration that he brings to the young and old, from East L.A. to the rest of California and the world.”

GRIST interview with mark!

LA Streetsblog article


Nation’s top environmental scientists say the EPA should not be weakened

Environmental research is needed now more than ever, insiders say

By Zen Vuong

As scientists begin to find their political voices, three former U.S. Environmental Protection Agency insiders on Wednesday said the Trump administration should not sacrifice environmental quality and the health of the American people “for a coterie of special-interest stakeholders.”

Their opinion piece was published on March 1 in the New England Journal of Medicine.

“Unfortunately, sowing doubt about scientific evidence has become a widely used strategy for delaying or blocking actions that are purported to potentially affect the bottom lines for particular industries,” the article stated. “We need to maintain the capacity to conduct cutting-edge research and to grapple with the application of the results in formulating evidence-based policies.”

The more than 2,300-word article is authored by Jonathan Samet, previous chair of the EPA Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee and holder of the Flora L. Thornton Chair in Preventive Medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC; Thomas Burke, former EPA science adviser and former head of the EPA’s Office of Research and Development under the Obama administration; and Bernard Goldstein, EPA assistant administrator for research and development during the Reagan administration. Continue reading “Nation’s top environmental scientists say the EPA should not be weakened”

USC Environmental Health Centers to Host Parks, Pollution and Obesity Convening: April 17, 2017

The USC Environmental Health Centers (SCEHSC, SC-CEHC, MADRES) will be hosting a spring convening on April 17, 2017.  The event will focus on the issues of Parks, Pollution and Obesity with a closer look at the interface between community needs for green space and physical activity, the potential exposure to pollution in these spaces, and the role that pollution plays in risk for obesity and diabetes.

Organizations that are co-hosting the convening include:

Obesity is a public health problem of epidemic proportions in California. In Los Angeles County the prevalence of obesity is strongly associated with economic hardship, that is, working poor and communities of color are the most heavily burdened by obesity. It is these same communities that face the highest cumulative burden of environmental pollution and the least park space per capita. Increasingly, scientific evidence suggests that exposure to “obesogens” or chemicals that disrupt normal metabolism and promote obesity. Urban air pollution as well as toxic metals have been linked to development of obesity, diabetes and heart disease.

“Answering the questions posed for this convening are critical to the well-being of our children’s grandchildren.  Please join this multidisciplinary dialog to begin to develop innovative approaches to this wicked problem,” said Frank Gilliland, director of the Southern California Environmental Health Sciences Center (SCEHSC).

“Parks and green space have been shown to have broad health benefits to users, in addition to promoting exercise. However, exercise in close proximity to major roadways results in exposure to air pollution that is likely to reduce the health benefits of exercise. With the approval of Measure A, Los Angeles has a historic opportunity to invest in parks, cited and developed to maximize health benefits,” said Rob McConnell, director of the Southern California Children’s Environmental Health Center (SC-CEHC). Continue reading “USC Environmental Health Centers to Host Parks, Pollution and Obesity Convening: April 17, 2017”

Recognizing Carla Truax’s 11 years of commitment to the Community Engagement Team

In January, Carla Truax left the Community Engagement Team at USC to pursue other career goals. Here, the staff and faculty at USC Environmental Health Centers pause to reflect on Carla’s time at USC and her contributions.

Carla Truax, (fourth from right) pictured here with the group of youth leaders and community partners at the conclusion of the Environmental Justice Summer Institute 2014.


In 2005, Carla Truax joined the Community Engagement Team (of the Southern CA Environmental Health Sciences Center) after graduating with her bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies from Hamline University in Minnesota. In her first few years at USC, Carla worked on advancing collaborations including the nationwide HOPE (Health Observances & Public Education) partnership with universities around the country, and the CARE (Community Action for a Renewed Environment) partnership led by Pacoima Beautiful to reduce diesel pollution. Continue reading “Recognizing Carla Truax’s 11 years of commitment to the Community Engagement Team”

SCEHSC Announces 2017 Pilot Project Grantees

The Southern California Environmental Health Sciences Center (SCEHSC) announced the annual pilot awards for 2017 on Friday, Feb. 3rd.  Director Frank Gilliland, MD, PhD said that the applications covered a wide range of cutting edge environmental health issues.  Four pilots were funded a total of $123,525 for 2017:
Continue reading “SCEHSC Announces 2017 Pilot Project Grantees”