NEW PUBLICATION: Community engaged participatory youth air monitoring program in urban Los Angeles “A Day in the Life”

The Community Engagement Program on Health and the Environment team of Wendy Gutschow and Jill Johnston, along with partners Zully Juarez (prospective UCLA MURP graduate in 2020), Sandy Navarro (LA Grit Media), Ashley Hernandez (Communities for a Better Environment) have published an article in IJERPH about the program they implemented that incorporated air monitoring and storytelling with youth in environmental justice organizations around the Los Angeles area.

A Day in the Life participants at Communities for a Better Environment learn about air monitoring using AirBeams.
A Day in the Life participants at South Central Youth Leadership Coalition monitor the air front of the AllenCo oil drilling site in South Los Angeles.

From the article:

Air pollution in Southern California does not impact all communities equally; communities of color are disproportionately burdened by poor air quality and more likely to live near industrial facilities and freeways. Government regulatory monitors do not have the spatial resolution to provide air quality information at the neighborhood or personal scale. We describe the A Day in the Life program, an approach to participatory air monitoring that engages youth in collecting data that they can then analyze and use to take action. Academics partnered with Los Angeles-based youth environmental justice organizations to combine personal air monitoring, participatory science, and digital storytelling to build capacity to address local air quality issues. Eighteen youth participants from four different neighborhoods wore portable personal PM2.5 (fine particles <2.5 µm in diameter) monitors for a day in each of their respective communities, documenting and mapping their exposure to PM2.5 during their daily routine. Air monitoring was coupled with photography and videos to document what they experienced over the course of their day. The PM2.5 exposure during the day for participants averaged 10.7 µg/m3, although the range stretched from <1 to 180 µg/m3. One-third of all measurements were taken <300 m from a freeway. Overall, we demonstrate a method to increase local youth-centered understanding of personal exposures, pollution sources, and vulnerability to air quality.

“I enjoyed doing this project because it was a lot of new information for me that directly impacts me as a community member, as well as learning about the way particulate matter affects our daily lives. With all of this new information, I want to educate my community on how harmful these particulates are, and how change should begin with personal choices people make throughout their day.”—CBE Youth, Huntington Park, CA.

To read more of how this program was implemented and the work that the youth, community organizers and staff put into making this happen, click through to read and download the full article here. Read more about the program on the Day in the Life program page here.  

Participants in the Day in the Life program since its inception in 2017 include:

LA Grit Media, South Central Youth Leadership Coalition, Communities for a Better Environment, Promoting Youth Advocacy, and Asian Pacific Islander Forward Movement, and Pacoima Beautiful.

The article is open access, available free of change to anyone who would like to download it.

Jill E. Johnston, Zully Juarez, Sandy Navarro, Ashley Hernandez, and Wendy Gutschow. (2020) “Youth Engaged Participatory Air Monitoring: A ‘Day in the Life’ in Urban Environmental Justice Communities.” Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 17(1), 93;

This work was funded, in part, by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (5P30ES007048 and P01ES022845) and the Environmental Protection Agency (83544101).

AirPollBrain and CEHC Presents: “Perinatal Metal Exposure and Neurodevelopment: Identifying Windows of Susceptibility”

The SCEHSC Seminar Series presents

“Perinatal Metal Exposure and Neurodevelopment: Identifying Windows of Susceptibility”

11:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m.

AirPollBrain Mini-Symposium: “Air Pollution and Adolescent Brain Development”

12:00 p.m.-1:30 p.m.

Megan Horton, PhD

Assistant Professor
Department of Environmental Medicine and Public Health
Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

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

Dr. Horton earned her doctoral degree in Environmental Health Sciences at Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University. During her doctoral training, she gained expertise in the development and use of biological markers to measure prenatal and early life exposures to environmental toxicants, focusing mainly on residential exposure to pesticides. Subsequently, she completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the Sergievsky Center for the Epidemiologic Study of Neurologic Diseases. The focus of this postdoc was to explore the use of brain imaging to investigate the impact of prenatal exposure to pesticides and secondhand smoke on neuropsychological and behavioral function throughout childhood. Dr. Horton was recently awarded an NIH career transition award and accepted a position as an Assistant Professor of Preventive Medicine at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. Her current work combines her experience with biomarker development and neuroimaging to understand the mechanisms of neurodevelopmental toxicity following exposure to chemical mixtures.

Visitor parking at the Soto Street Building is limited. If you are planning to park at the Soto building during the seminar please contact Marissa Jacy ( for more information. If you are a USC employee, please plan to take the free USC shuttle to our seminars whenever possible. Information about the USC shuttle can be found at

Air Pollution Has Similar Adverse Effects as Obesity on Risk for Type 2 Diabetes

Air Pollution Adversely Effects Insulin Sensitivity

PRESS: Reuters, Endocrine Today, Everyday Diabetes, Newsmax, Environment Today

It is a well-established fact that obese people are more likely to develop diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and be at increased risk for stroke. In a recent study published in Diabetes Care journal, USC researchers in the USC Keck School of Medicine found that fine particulate matter  that mostly comes from vehicles exhaust in Los Angeles has a similar significant effect as obesity on the risk of type 2 diabetes. “The most important clinical meaning of our results is that the impact of PM2.5 on Type 2 Diabetes related traits was comparable to the influence of obesity on these traits,” said the study’s lead author, postdoctoral research associate Zhanghua Chen.

With years of studying the role that air pollution plays in health outcomes, researchers at the Southern California Environmental Health Sciences Center (SCEHSC) have equipped themselves to study how air pollution affects an individual’s risk for acquiring type 2 diabetes at some point in their lifetime.

In a study with Mexican American adults, who are at high risk of type 2 diabetes, Dr. Frank D. Gilliland, director of the SCEHSC, Chen and colleagues in the Keck School of Medicine at USC looked at how exposures to specific air pollutants and heavy traffic near their homes during various time periods from several days to a year impacted the risk of type 2 diabetes among this high risk group of Mexican-Americans.

The research team found that participants exposed to higher short-term average PM2.5 concentrations were more insulin resistant, had lower HDL to LDL (good to bad cholesterol) ratios and higher fasting glucose and insulin. Higher annual average exposure to PM2.5 also adversely affect fasting glucose, insulin resistance and blood lipids.  Additionally, obese people are more susceptible to the negative effects of short-term PM2.5 on insulin sensitivity.

“The uniqueness of this study paired air pollution measures with detailed and more direct measurements of insulin sensitivity and beta-cell function using a frequently sampled intravenous glucose tolerance test,” said Chen. “The Mexican American population is known for their high risk for obesity and, but they were less studied for the relationship between air pollution and type 2 diabetes.”

“Our significant findings about the detrimental impact of air pollution exposures on increased risk of type 2 diabetes indicate that stricter control of air pollution is needed to early prevent type 2 diabetes. Results from this study can provide policy makers with the information needed to formulate policy and regulation to protect public health,” said Chen.

Zhanghua Chen, Muhammad T. Salam, Claudia Toledo-Corral, Richard M. Watanabe, Anny H. Xiang, Thomas A. Buchanan, Rima Habre, Theresa M. Bastain, Fred Lurmann, John P. Wilson, Enrique Trigo, and Frank D. Gilliland. Ambient Air Pollutants Have Adverse Effects on Insulin and Glucose Homeostasis in Mexican Americans, Diabetes Care published ahead of print February 11, 2016, doi:10.2337/dc15-1795

Funding. This work was supported by National Institutes of Health grants DK-061628, M01-RR-0043, and UL1-TR000130, American Diabetes Association Research Award Clinical Research grant 7-09-CT-09, the Southern California Environmental Health Sciences Center funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (grant 5P30ES007048), National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences grant 5P01ES011627, and the Hastings Foundation.