SCEHSC Center members involved in KPCC Story: More than 150 LA child care centers dangerously close to freeways

Local KPCC reporter, Deepa Fernandez (Early Childhood Development Correspondent) approached SCEHSC staff and researchers last year to inquire about air pollution monitoring and health effects of near roadway air pollution on children. Today her feature story about childcare centers in Los Angeles in close proximity to freeways was published.We are proud to not only have our center members quoted in the story, but community partners as well.

Deepa Fernandez, KPCC

Culver City writer Tracey Moore loved everything about her daughter’s daycare. It was close to her family’s house, included some Spanish immersion, and her young child was smitten with the staff.

So when the owner informed parents she was moving, there was unanimous consensus among families that they would all follow her.

But when Moore saw the new daycare location, she was devastated: “It’s a side street that dead ends right at the freeway,” she recalled, “and the preschool is about a stone’s throw [away].”

Every day, more than 300,000 cars and trucks rumble through that section of the 405, according to CalTrans data for 2014 – making it one of the most highly-trafficked spots in Los Angeles. Moore didn’t know that specific statistic, but she could see the traffic and was concerned about what she called the “invisible ribbon of particles” drifting off the freeway from cars and trucks directly into the yard of the day care. Read more here

Map: Where child care facilities are next to highways

South Coast AQMD Publishes Video Featuring Center Researchers

The South Coast Air Quality Management District (SC-AQMD) has recently produced a fantastic YouTube video, “Do One Thing” The 9:45 minute video takes a look at the air quality in the LA basin, associated health effects, and what one person can do to make a difference. The video helps remind us of simple things we can do in our daily lives to make a difference in our environment and the air we breathe: things such as riding our bikes on short trips close to home, riding mass transit, and even walking to school with our kids one day a week. The video also highlights personal stories of how people’s health and that of loved ones has been affected by the pollution in the Southern California region. Watch and be inspired to make a difference and “Do One Thing” (or maybe more)! (Note: We are not biased even though this video features two of our researchers:  Ed Avol and Rob McConnell).

For related information on the health effects of traffic related pollution, click through to see this infographic.

Outreach Program Releases New Infographic

USC EH Living Near Busy Roads Infographic

The Community Outreach and Engagement team at the USC Environmental Health Centers has developed an infographic, the first in a series that we will be sharing with you over the next few months and years. This infographic has been developed especially for people who want to learn  more about how their health is affected if they live or go to school in an area with lots of traffic pollution, near a busy road or traffic corridor. The infographic provides direct links to research studies done by USC Environmental Health researchers as well as other important studies on this topic.

Click on the image above to go to the interactive infographic. If you have more questions and want to learn more about the content of the infographic, please email us (scehsc (at) usc . edu) or visit our Facebook page and post a comment.


CENTER MEMBER RESEARCH: Dr. Heather Volk – Autism and Air Pollution

USC Assistant Professor Heather Volk is on a roll. Dr. Volk recently secured major funding from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) to lead a study that could potentially have implications for the prevention of autism. This research seeks to further explore the role traffic-related air pollution may play in causing autistic traits and cognitive delays in children from birth to 3 years of age. This study comes on the heels of Volk’s most recently published research which focused on the frequency of how a particular genetic risk factor for autism combined with prenatal exposure to air pollution may increase the incidence of autism spectrum disorders (ASD).

Drs. Volk and Rob McConnell (USC professor and air pollution epidemiologist) and colleagues from universities across the country have been awarded more than $2 million by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences over the course of the next four years (July 2014-July 2018) to implement their study entitled “Prospective Evaluation of Air Pollution, Cognition, and Autism from Birth Onward.” This study will combine the cohorts of two multi-year (longitudinal) studies that are being conducted at UC Davis , Kaiser Permanente in Northern California , Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD and Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA. See also this USC News article about the study.

The two studies include participants who live near research sites across the country including: multiple counties in southwest Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware, northeast Maryland, and people who live within a two hour radius of the San Francisco Bay Area. (MARBLES study and EARLI study)

Dr. Volk explains: “This study looks at the neurodevelopmental outcomes of children whose mothers have had one child with ASD and looks at their early development.” She adds: “Air pollution modeling techniques will be used to measure the pollution levels of kids being followed in these studies across time as well as the levels of air pollution their mothers were exposed to when they were pregnant. “ Mothers who have been exposed to similar pollution will have biomarkers in their blood analyzed for various pollutants related to traffic, including ultrafine particulate matter. Results of this research will aim to identify specific characteristics related to autism that may be caused by pollution that the children and their mothers are exposed to.

“We hope that by studying the relationships between air pollution, autism, and neurodevelopment in several areas of the country where a broad range of air pollution is present we will be able to impact the health and development of children even in highly polluted areas like Southern California,” said Volk.

“Prospective Evaluation of Air Pollution, Cognition, and Autism from Birth Onward” is an NIEHS RO1 grant funded study. Participating investigators include: USC (Heather Volk – PI, Rob McConnell), UC Davis (Irva Hertz-Picciotto), Drexel (Craig J. Newschaffer), Kaiser (Lisa Croen), Johns Hopkins (M. Daniele Fallin), and Duke (Jufeng Zhang).

In addition, on November 10, Dr. Volk, along with Linda Birnbaum, Director of the NIEHS and Leonardo Trasande, M.D., MPP Associate Professor of Pediatrics, Environmental Medicine & Health Policy, NYU School of Medicine will be testifying at a Congressional Briefing hosted by Representative David Price (D-NC). The presentation, “Ensuring a Healthy Start for Every Child: How the Environment Influences Health & Development,” is co-sponsored by Friends of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Thoracic Society, and the National Center for Environmental Health Strategies. Stay tuned for move coverage of this important event.