NEW RESEARCH: Does air pollution make teens eat fattening foods?

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

Our study found that exposure to traffic pollution during childhood makes adolescents more likely to eat foods high in unhealthy trans fats.  (Photo/Courtesy of the South Coast Air Quality Management District)

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.

Continue reading “NEW RESEARCH: Does air pollution make teens eat fattening foods?”

Environmental Health Leadership Summit 2018

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.

NEW VIDEO: Building environmental health literacy in urban communities

The  Community Engagement Core of the MADRES Environmental Health Disparities Center is pleased to share a video about our work to build environmental health literacy around toxins and health impacts found in commonly used household cleaning products with Latina mothers. The popular education workshops, done in partnership with public health interns from CalStateLA, introduce concepts of environmental health and justice rooted in participants lived experience while providing alternative methods for participants to create their own “Do It Yourself” green cleaning products.

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Intern Perspective: High school student impacted by local environmental justice issues

This summer the Community Outreach and Engagement team had the pleasure of hosting interns ranging from high school to masters level students. Maggie Shi, a high school senior from Yorba Linda, CA spend two months with us doing a variety of projects. A quick learner with a skill set that enabled her to tackle any assignment given to her, Maggie contributed in a variety of ways to the work that the Community Outreach staff and college interns did over the summer. At the end of her time with us, Maggie provided the following reflections on her experience.

I remember sitting at my desk on the first day of my internship, feeling excited, nervous, and a little out of place. As I looked around at all these unfamiliar faces around me, it dawned upon me that USC’s Division of Environmental Health probably didn’t take in many high school interns, and all the other college interns seemed much more knowledgeable and experienced than I was. Nevertheless, I knew how fortunate I was to be here, and I was still extremely excited. Thankfully, throughout the first few weeks, I was met with an incredible amount of support and enthusiasm from both my fellow interns and other employees in the office, and I quickly settled in. Continue reading “Intern Perspective: High school student impacted by local environmental justice issues”

SCEHSC Seminar Series: “Communicating Air Quality Data and Health Risk to the Public”

The SCEHSC Seminar Series presents

“Communicating Air Quality Data and Health Risk to the Public”

Jo Kay Ghosh, PhD

Health Effects Officer
South Coast Air Quality Management District

Friday, September 9, 2016
11:45 a.m.-1:00 p.m.

Soto Street I Building, Room 116
2001 North Soto Street
Los Angeles, CA 90032

If you would like to attend the FREE seminar, please email jacy@usc.edu

Dr. Jo Kay Ghosh is the Health Effects Officer at the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD). She earned her doctorate in Epidemiology from the UCLA School of Public Health, with her work on air pollution and birth outcomes. She also conducted post-doctoral research at the USC Department of Preventive Medicine, examining the effects of air pollution on cancer risk. Previously, she worked at the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, where she managed the Epidemiology and Research Unit of the Tuberculosis Control Program. 

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New Research: Greenery in Neighborhoods May Reduce Adolescent Aggressive Behavior

SCEHSC Study Supports Benefits of Neighborhood Greenspace on Southern California Adolescents

A study to be published in the July 2016 issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (JAACAP) reports that adolescents in urban communities may have less aggressive behaviors if they live in neighborhoods with more greenery, such as parks, golf courses or fields.

Studies have shown that the families we grow up in, the places we work, and the friends we keep (our social environment) play a large role in influencing behavior.  However, not much is known about how one’s outdoor environment – such as the greenery in one’s neighborhood – affects behavior.

The University of Southern California (USC) recently conducted the first longitudinal study to see whether greenery surrounding the home could reduce aggressive behaviors in a group of Southern California adolescents living in urban communities.

The team, part of the Southern California Environmental Health Sciences Center at the Keck School of Medicine of USC and the Department of Psychology at the USC Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, followed 1,287 adolescents, age nine to 18 years. They assessed the adolescents’ aggressive behaviors every two-to-three years, asking parents if their child physically attacked or threatened others, destroyed things or exhibited other similar behaviors. The researchers then linked the adolescents’ residential locations to satellite data to measure the levels of greenery in their neighborhoods.

The study found that nine to 18 year-olds who lived in places with more greenery had significantly less aggressive behaviors than those living in neighborhoods with less greenery.  Both short-term (one-to-six months) and long-term (one-to-three years) exposure to greenspace within 1,000 meters surrounding residences were associated with reduced aggressive behaviors.  The behavioral benefit of greenspace equated to approximately two to two-and-a-half years of adolescent maturation.

The study also found that factors such as age, gender, race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, parents’ educational background, occupation, income level or marital status, and whether their mother smoked while pregnant or was depressed, did not affect the findings.

Additionally, these benefits existed for both boys and girls of all ages and races/ethnicities, and across populations with different socioeconomic backgrounds and living in communities with different neighborhood quality.

“Identifying effective measures to reduce aggressive and violent behaviors in adolescents is a pressing issue facing societies worldwide,” said Diana Younan, M.P.H., doctoral candidate at the Keck School of Medicine. “It is important that we target aggressive behaviors early-on. Our study provides new evidence that increasing neighborhood greenery may be an effective alternative intervention strategy for an environmental public health approach that has not been considered yet.”

Based on the study’s findings, USC investigators and their collaborators estimate that increasing greenery levels commonly seen in urban environments could result in a 12 percent decrease in clinical cases of aggressive behavior in California adolescents living in urban areas.  Researchers conclude that these results support the benefits of greenery in decreasing aggressive behaviors for adolescents living in urban communities.

This new knowledge may provide a strong reason for further studies to examine if improving greenery in residential neighborhoods will indeed reduce aggressive behaviors in adolescents.

The article “Environmental Determinants of Aggression in Adolescents: Role of Urban Neighborhood Greenspace” by Diana Younan, Catherine Tuvblad, Lianfa Li, Jun Wu, Fred Lurmann, Meredith Franklin, Kiros Berhane, Rob McConnell, Anna H. Wu, Laura Baker, and Jiu-Chiuan Chen (http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jaac.2016.05.002) appears in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Volume 55, Issue 7 (July 2016), published by Elsevier.

KPCC documents community monitoring work on “invisible problem” of traffic pollution

A KPCC story today documents the work of health advocates and collaborations to implement community air monitoring of traffic pollution.  Center faculty and staff provided information for this ongoing series by Deepa Fernandes, which raises awareness about the health effects of going to school near busy roads and freeways.  The Community Outreach program partners with organizations who are interested in knowing what they are breathing at the neighborhood level.  The monitors are a valuable tool to understand more about air pollution and research.  Working with youth is also a strategy to encourage interest in science, health, and environmental issues. Continue reading “KPCC documents community monitoring work on “invisible problem” of traffic pollution”