Join us for a one-day symposium, hosted by our NIEHS funded Southern California Environmental Health Sciences Center at the University of Southern California. Omics technologies are new biomarker discovery tools that can be applied to study large sets of biological molecules. Their application in human population studies has become feasible in recent years due to the recent and spectacular increase in sensitivity, resolution, and high throughput of analytical assays now possible. Although the number of omics techniques is ever-expanding, their application in Environmental Health research has been limited thus far.
During this one-day symposium, we’ll discuss opportunities these new technologies provide for Environmental Health Research. We’ll address challenges in data interpretation generated by omics technologies. We’ll provide examples of studies leveraging omics technologies to investigate health effects of common environmental exposures. We’ll also discuss how the complex mix of environmental exposures (exposome) shapes human health through changes in the “metabolome” and gut microbiome. We’ll highlight large consortia initiatives which enable applications of omics technologies in environmental health research.
We invite researchers new to the field, as well as those who are already using “omics” in environmental health research to attend this meeting (max number of participants ~150-200max, a
No-cost registration is required, and a lite breakfast and box lunch will be provided.
Register soon, capacity is limited! To register go to: omics.usc.edu
A recent research study by Dr. Rima Habre took a detailed look at
the short-term health impacts caused by breathing in ultrafine particulate
(UFP) matter that is emitted from aircraft activity at the Los Angeles
International Airport (LAX). Several years ago, USC researchers identified a
clear pattern of UFP emissions from takeoff and landing aircraft activities at
LAX. Levels of the dangerous UFPs were found to be 4 to 5 times greater than
background levels in downwind communities.
“Ultrafine particulate matter is known to contribute to reduced lung
function, and airway inflammation in individuals with asthma. We wanted to take
a close look at short term effects on health when individuals breathe air that
contains UFPs from airplanes,” said Habre. The study participants were made up
of adults with doctor diagnosed asthma.
Dr. Rima Habre has been with USC for five years. Dr. Habre’s
expertise lies in air pollution exposure assessment, analyzing patterns of how
people get exposed to air pollution across time and space and studying how
specific pollutants impact their health.
Recently Dr. Habre’s work reached the international stage through a documentary, produced by the Canadian Broadcasting Company, called Something in the Air. “The producers were very interested in learning more about our latest work around air pollution and asthma – specifically around the latest technologies we are using to better understand the impacts of small particles on a personal level – in children and adults with asthma, and in pregnant women.” Dr. Habre was interviewed about her work around ultrafine particle exposures downwind of major airports and its effects on asthma, as well as her work to understand how children’s personal exposure to air pollution predict their risk of experiencing an asthma attack. Something in the Air will be released this week in Canada, with an international release to be announced.
Airport-related ultrafines affect health differently than traffic-related
Habre and her team designed this study to test the short-term effects of breathing ultrafine particles by asking study participants to walk in a Los Angeles park located within the known higher levels of UFPs emitted from airplanes and near heavily trafficked roads, and another park farther away from the airport and busy roads with lower levels of UFPs.
“In our study, we found that inhaling UFPs led to higher
inflammation in the blood in adults with asthma shortly after exposure.
However, different inflammation markers responded to aircraft-related versus
traffic-related UFPs – both of which are major ultrafine particle sources in dense
urban areas. We were able to see these different signals because we managed to
overcome the challenge of separating the air pollution mixture into its major
sources using sophisticated measurements and modeling techniques,” said Habre. The pollutants measured by the study included
UFP particle number, particle size, black carbon, carbon dioxide,
particle-bound polyaromatic hydrocarbons, and ozone.
The significance of Habre’s study is that in such a short time,
following regular walking exposure and a higher exposure, they were able to see
significant elevation in inflammation systemically, not just in the lungs but
in the overall blood circulation. Inflammation is tied to a lot of disease
processes; cardiovascular, respiratory, and metabolic. “We don’t know
specifically what this inflammation will lead to down the line, but we know
that inflammation is generally a bad thing, and will complicate or exacerbate
existing conditions. Ideally, we would have liked to have been able to monitor
people long-term to see if that inflammation persists or if it goes down after
a while but we were not able to do that in this specific study, that’s a future
direction of this research I’d like to look at,” said Habre.
When asked what this research means to the overall population,
Habre described the current body of research that has found ultrafine particles
to be much more toxic than the larger sizes of particulate matter, UFPs are not
regulated, and UFPs impact large numbers of people who live in communities
Dr. Habre also leads environmental exposure assessment efforts in
multiple research studies being conducted at USC, including the MADRES
study of pregnant women and babies and the LA
DREAMERs study of children’s health across the life course, and in
partnership with other research groups such as the Los Angeles PRISMS
Center, a UCLA/USC partnership. Her work in the Los Angeles PRISMS
Center is taking a deeper dive into the different sources of air
pollution asthmatic children encounter in their day to day lives in Los Angeles
and how it impacts their health. This
study focuses on personal experiences, using Bluetooth-enabled wearable sensors
to monitor environmental exposures, location, activity, medications and
symptoms, to ultimately generate new information to help predict and prevent
asthma attacks. To learn more about the Los Angeles PRISMS Center, watch this
As she moves forward with her research on the health effects of
ultrafine particulate matter in urban areas, Dr. Habre plans to build on her
current work by studying how people with asthma are affected, as well as those
who are obese, have diabetes, or cardiovascular issues. “I would like to be
able to capture a wider variety of sources of ultrafines in urban areas and
also be able to monitor individuals for a longer period of time to really
understand what happens next. In this study we saw very quick and acute
effects, but do people tend to recover after a day? I think the ultimate goal
would be to really understand if people living in these high exposure locations,
for extended periods of time, and breathing this mixture in regularly are at a
significantly higher risk or not,” she said.
For more information on the “Something in the Air” documentary
that Dr. Habre’s work is featured in, on the documentary’s website: www.somethingintheair.ca.
Once the documentary is released in the United States, USC Environmental Health
Centers will publish the release date and viewing information.
Funding: This study was funded by the Southern California
Environmental Health Sciences Center (National Institute of Environmental
Health Sciences, P30ES007048) pilot program, NIEHS grants 1R01ES023262, 1K22ES022987,
1R01ES027860, and the Hastings Foundation.
Researchers and community partners of the USC Children’s
AIRE study recently published a paper that summarizes the public health
dimensions of a shrinking Salton Sea.
Competing water demands in the southwest are dramatically altering the
landscape and creating conditions conducive to the production of wind-blown
dust and dust storms in this region.
“Children are highly susceptible to the impacts of air pollutants, as their lungs and immune systems continue to develop throughout childhood. Studies show that wind-blown dust may adversely impact respiratory health and these effects by be amplified in environmental justice communities” said Jill Johnston. The authors highlight the need for meaningful collaboration across government, researchers and the community residents to facilitate the development of both mitigation and adaptive measures to respond to the shrinking Sea.
Learn more about the AIRE Study including study partner Comite Civico del Valle, Inc. at the study website here.
Jill Johnston, Mitiasoa Razafy, Humberto Lugo, Luis Olmedo, Shohreh F. Farzan, 2019. The disappearing Salton Sea: A critical reflection on the emerging environmental threat of disappearing saline lakes and potential impacts on children’s health. Science of The Total Environment. 2019 vol: 663 pp: 804-817. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2019.01.365
This research project is funded by NIEHS, grant
Recently researchers Meredith Franklin and Jill Johnston from the Keck School of Medicine, and colleagues published a study that demonstrates a new way of identifying oil and gas flaring sites using satellite observations. This will go a long way in more accurately identifying and characterizing the public health impacts of exposure to flares, which contain a variety of harmful air toxics that can be released over days and years.
is a widely used practice for the disposal of natural gas through burning. The
practice of flaring near unconventional oil and gas extraction sites has become
much more common in the U.S. in recent years. Flares often burn continually for
weeks, and they are highly visible so nearby residents often complain of odors
this study, the researchers focused their analysis on one of the most
productive oil and gas regions in the United States, the Eagle Ford Shale in
southern and central Texas. The analysis
identified 43887 distinct oil and gas flares in the Eagle For from 2012 to
2016, with a peak in activity in 2014 and an estimated 4.5 billion cubic meters
of total gas volume flared.
on a much smaller scale, flaring occurs in Los Angeles, where oil and gas wells
are embedded in neighborhoods and commercial parts of the city. Residents
living in close proximity to oil and gas activity can be exposed to potentially
harmful air pollution and can experience disruption from noise and nuisance of
the equipment and rigs.
“The practice of flaring near unconventional
oil and gas extraction sites has become much more common in the U.S. in recent
years, but systemic reporting is lacking,” said the study’s lead author
Meredith Franklin. “Our analysis demonstrates a new way of identifying oil and
gas flaring sites using satellite observations that is objective and can
tell us exactly where and when flaring is occurring.”
The act of flaring releases a variety of harmful air toxics. Many of these pollutants are well documented to cause long and short-term health impacts. “We plan additional studies to look at the role of flaring on the health of the local communities in the Eagle Ford, in particular pregnant women and babies. ” said Jill Johnston.
New research from our Center investigators suggests that early exposure to traffic pollution may be linked to unhealthy diet in adolescence.
by Leigh Hopper, USC Media Relations
Could air pollution be making us fat?
A new USC study suggests that exposure to traffic pollution during childhood makes adolescents 34 percent more likely to eat foods high in unhealthy trans fats — regardless of household income, parent education level or proximity to fast-food restaurants. The findings on air pollution and obesity in teens appear in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
“Strange as it may seem, we discovered kids in polluted communities ate more fast food than other kids,” said Zhanghua Chen, a postdoctoral research associate in the department of preventive medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC, and the study’s first author.
Researchers, staff, and interns from the USC Environmental Health Centers attended the 9th annual Environmental Health Leadership Summit of 2018 on October 18-19 in Heber, CA, a small community in the southern part of the Imperial Valley. The annual summit is hosted by Comite Civico del Valle, an environmental justice organization based in the Brawley, CA. Every year, CCV hosts various researchers, state and local agencies, community members, and community organizations share the air pollution mitigation efforts of all parties involved. The annual event is an opportunity for folks to share their projects and tackle environmental justice issues that affect communities in the Imperial Valley and beyond.
Air pollution has become a hot topic in the Imperial Valley due to the frequency of dust storms and bad air quality days that affect this agricultural region. Nearby, the Salton Sea has emerged into the spotlight after years of drought and a decrease in water availability has led to much of the shoreline drying out and leaving behind fine, toxic dust.
This year’s focus was on the various air pollution mitigation efforts made possible by the CA assembly bill, AB617 and the various agencies and stakeholders involved. The first day of the Summit consisted of presentations from the California Air Resources Board and from a couple project leaders regarding the establishment of a CAMN (community air monitoring network) in the Imperial Valley. Presenters also talked about the assembly bill and the process that went into selecting the 10 communities that have become the focal point of the bill. Through a series of workshops, the agency presented attendees with information on topics such as new air monitoring tools, the community engagement aspect of the bill, and data resources among others.
Day 2 of the Summit was centered around the air monitoring efforts taking place in the Imperial Valley. In the first panel, various health professionals presented on their research projects taking place in communities surrounding the Salton Sea and the effects that this large body of water has on the health of nearby inhabitants, especially children. USC investigator, Dr. Jill Johnston gave a brief presentation on the AIRE study which looks at the respiratory health of children living in the Northern part of the Imperial Valley. Following this presentation, the youth environmental health leadership interns talked about their experiences participating in the program and their efforts in meeting with legislators in Sacramento.
The rest of the afternoon followed with more panels that discussed air pollution mitigation efforts across the Imperial Valley and in the eastern Coachella Valley. Guests were able to ask questions throughout each session and network with presenters and other attendees during breaks.
AIRE study staff and student workers ready to talk to attendees about our work.
Dr. Farzan and student workers ready to answer questions.
Community member looking at our pesticide infographic.
Dr. Farzan explains the AIRE study to a community member.
Dr. Farzan is introduced by the mayor of Brawley, Mr. George Nava.
Dr. Johnston presents the AIRE study during the Health Disparities panel.
Dr. Johnston talks about the effects of the drying Salton Sea
The Health Disparities panel answers questions from audience members about their research.
Toddlers with asthma are more likely to become obese children, according to a big international study led by USC scientists.
The finding is a turnabout for children’s health as obesity has often been seen as a precursor to asthma in children, not the other way around. The study, conducted by a team of 40 scientists including researchers at the Keck School of Medicine of USC, was recently published in the European Respiratory Journal.