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Keck School group to mitigate health impacts of port expansion

by Tom DeSanto
The S.S. Lane Victory sails under the Vincent Thomas Bridge in the Port of Los Angeles.
The S.S. Lane Victory sails under the Vincent Thomas Bridge in the Port of Los Angeles.

The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach generate a huge volume of revenue — and high levels of diesel pollution — as they move vast amounts of cargo, which comes at a cost to the environment and the health of nearby residents of low-income communities.

Andrea Hricko, professor of preventive medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC, works with a team of USC and University of California, Los Angeles, scientists at the Southern California Environmental Health Sciences Center, directed by Frank Gilliland, professor of preventive medicine. The center is dedicated to studying the health effects of air pollution.

The Kresge Foundation recently awarded a $180,000 grant to the center’s community outreach and engagement program, directed by Hricko, for a two-year project titled “Translating the Health Impacts of Ports and Goods Movements.” The award fulfills the foundation’s mission to expand opportunity in America’s cities and the goal of its health program to reduce disparities by addressing the built and natural environments of vulnerable populations.

The center’s research indicates that long-term exposure to near-roadway traffic emissions is harmful. The Kresge grant will help the outreach core to continue to inform stakeholders involved in possible port, rail or freeway expansion to integrate research findings on long-term health effects into their transportation decisions.

Bolstered by previous grants from The Kresge Foundation, The California Wellness Foundation and The California Endowment, and with ongoing support from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, the outreach core works with multiple community and environmental group partners.

The core tries to shift the debate about ports and freight movement to elevate community voices in policymaking, while also using the research findings of its center scientists to strengthen those voices in seeking reduction of diesel emissions. Successes include having the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach become leaders in developing methods to reduce air pollution, with a resultant decrease in diesel emissions over the last decade.

Andrea Hricko, professor of preventive medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC (Photo/Philip Channing)

Andrea Hricko, professor of preventive medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC (Photo/Philip Channing)

“The additional resources generously provided by The Kresge Foundation will allow us to write reports, submit comments and attend more meetings to present USC research findings to policymakers so they understand how important it is to evaluate health science data when making decisions about expansion,” Hricko said.

David Fukuzawa, program director for health at the foundation, added, “We are pleased to continue our support of Professor Hricko and her colleagues at the Keck School for their pioneering efforts to advance environmental health science on behalf of the residents near and around Southern California’s ports. They have become true national leaders.”

The Kresge Foundation is a $3.1 billion private, national foundation headquartered in a suburb of Detroit. Its seven major areas of support are arts and culture, community development, the city of Detroit, education, environment, health and human services.

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