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University of Southern California

Children's Environmental Health Center

University of Southern California
Frank D. Gilliland, M.D., Ph.D. 

Project Description:

At the Children's Environmental Health Center, scientists study the relationships between air pollution and respiratory disease and identify factors that may make some children more susceptible to the health effects of pollution. Breathing polluted air can cause a variety of health problems in children, including asthma.


Studying the health effects of car exhaust and other pollutants helps researchers at this center determine which pollutants present a hazard to children. In addition, the researchers look at genetic and other factors that increase a person’s risk for respiratory disease and study how chronic airway inflammation might lead to the development of asthma.


This center uses an innovative approach of community-based participatory research through which scientists ensure that communities, legislators, regulatory agencies, and other groups interested in children's environmental health are well informed about the research and its relevance for protecting children’s health.

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Project 1: Urban air pollution and persistent early life asthma 

Project leader: Rob McConnell


This community based participatory research project is evaluating the relationship between early life asthma and traffic-related air pollution. The research questions for this project were identified from Children's Environmental Health Center research cooperation with the Long Beach Alliance for Children with Asthma and the Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice. These two broad coalitions of organizations represent children with asthma in communities with some of the heaviest traffic in southern California.

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Project 2: Pollution, exhaled breath markers and asthma in susceptible childre 

Project leader: Frank D. Gilliland, M.D., Ph.D.


Ambient air pollution is well accepted as a cause of asthma exacerbations, but its role in contributing to the onset of new cases of asthma is less clear. In this project, the researchers use exhaled nitric oxide to study the role of inflammation and oxidative/nitrosative stress in development of new onset asthma, with a focus on ambient air pollution and genetic susceptibility.

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