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Your Environment. Your Health.

Equipping Communities to Fight for Clean Air

ARRA Success Story

Steven P. Wallace, Ph.D

Steven Wallace

University of California, Los Angeles

"With help from Recovery Act funds from NIEHS, residents of Long Beach, California, and the Boyle Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles, two areas that suffer from some of the worst air pollution in a metropolitan area known for air pollution, are taking action."

- Steven P. Wallace, Ph.D.

The reach of this program was larger than anticipated. 

These two communities both sit in the center of the goods movement corridor of Los Angeles, Long Beach being the home of one of the busiest ports in the world, and Boyle Heights a warehouse district surrounded by freeways, explains Steven P. Wallace, Ph.D., a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, (UCLA) School of Public Health and principal investigator for the ALERT (Assessment of Local Environmental Risk Training to Reduce Health Disparities) program.

Both communities also are heavily Latino and home to many immigrants and non- or limited-English-speaking residents.

"They're bound together by being immigrant communities, by being affected by the goods movement, by mobile-source air pollution, and by having community organizations that are increasingly interested in health and air pollution issues," Wallace says.

The ALERT program aims to get these community organizations working together with the network of environmental health researchers in Los Angeles to improve research of mobile-source air pollution and to improve conditions in these communities.

Community leader Elena Rodriguez of the Long Beach Alliance for Children with Asthma and East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice leads a breakout session on green industry and transit policy at ALERT Skill Clinic, using skills she learned at the ALERT Train the Trainer course. In the background, Lina Stepick of East LA Community Corporation leads a breakout session on policies needed to limit commercial trucks from entering residential streets in the Boyle Heights neighborhood.

One of the highlights of ALERT is the four-day Train the Trainers program, where members of these communities were taught how to understand air pollution science and data in assessing the communities needs in protecting health from air pollution, according to ALERT Program Director Peggy Toy, also director of the Health DATA (Data. Advocacy. Training. Assistance.) Program at the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research.

"When they came out of the Train the Trainer course, there was a comfort level between community members and researchers to begin to work together and think about how they can further collaborate," Toy says.

While Toy acknowledges that the goods movement will remain tied to these communities, she says steps still can be taken to protect residents from the resultant air pollution, including efforts to stop expansion of Interstate 710 and tighter enforcement of regulations designed to keep tractor-trailers off neighborhood streets.