Disparities in Environmental Exposures and Health Impacts: Childhood asthma and the Salton Sea

Residents of the eastern Coachella Valley (ECV) show an increased incidence of pulmonary disease compared to the general population; it has been estimated that while the incidence of childhood asthma in California is ~8%, in the region surrounding the Salton Sea it has been estimated to be upwards of 20%, with significant economic and social impacts in the community. Much of this effect has been attributed to exposure to the high concentration of aerosolized particulates.

In the present research program, we will be focusing on differential exposure within the community to components that may have specific health impacts. Our studies extend to aerosolized environmental components such as soil microbes, and components that might be produced from drying lakebeds around the Salton Sea including components from the sea itself. In addition, we will engage with the community to identify key impacts among the residents as well as collect data on the nature of the high incidence of childhood asthma.

We conducted a brief survey to obtain community input on the placement of dust collectors in the eastern Coachella Valley. The results will help inform decisions around where to place dust collectors. You can find the summary of the surveys here in English and Spanish

Project Aims and Research Leaders

The overall project is led by Dr. David Lo, and brings together an interdisciplinary set of research aims that will analyze the connection between the local Salton Sea environment and the health impacts within the community. You can find an overview of the project in English, Spanish, and Purépecha.

  • Aim 1 (Ann Cheney and Maria Pozar). Establish a Community Advisory Board in eastern Coachella Valley to provide local stakeholder input, and build a communication network among families living with asthma.
  • Aim 2 (William Porter). Identify spatial patterns and trends in pollutant transport and population exposure around southern and eastern Coachella Valley near the Salton Sea.
  • Aim 3 (Emma Aronson). Using an array of particle collectors at sites representing the range of sources of fine dusts, identify elemental and biological sources of particle components, including plant (natural and agricultural) sources, marine organisms from the Salton Sea, topsoil, and drying lakebeds.
  • Aim 4 (David Lo). Using environmental chamber exposure studies, develop a monitoring protocol to assess pulmonary inflammation impacts of aerosol particulates, focusing on major components identified from particle collectors.


Other links, media, publications

Story Maps:

Please check out our Story Maps created by our graduate student researcher, Sahar Foruzan M.A., our undergraduate research assistants, Isabelle Swanson and Preeti Juturu with the help Center of Health Disparities (CHD) team. 

           Exposing the Desert: Environmental Justice in California's Desert Wetland
This story map is the first of a series capturing the impact of the "Childhood Asthma and the Salton Sea" project. Please click here to read more. 

          Exposing the Desert Part II: Environmental Justice in California's Desert Wetland

Part II of this series focuses on HDR@UCR and the four researchers with the R01 project. Included is an introduction to remind readers of the health and environmental issues around the Salton Sea and a brief section about the goals of HDR@UCR; followed by questions each researcher is focusing on, what they are currently doing, what they plan to do, and what challenges they have faced during their projects. Please click here to read more.