The Geography of Air Pollution: Where are Pregnant Women and their Children at Risk?

The Geography of Air Pollution: Where are Pregnant Women and their Children at Risk?

A joint Oppenheim Lecture by: Beate Ritz, M.D., Ph.D., Professor and Vice Chair, UCLA Department of Epidemiology and John Balmes, M.D., Professor of Medicine, U.C. San Francisco

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About the Lecture

Traditionally, air pollution levels are tracked by monitoring “background level” exposures at random points in a region. Then, pollution sources across the region are regulated under the Clean Air Act to reduce the ambient air pollution levels to Clean Air Act standards. This approach assumes that lowering the ambient air pollution level will protect public health across the region. However, a growing body of research has shown that local sources of air pollution can have adverse health effects on people who live or work near these sources—effects that go beyond the ambient regional pollution exposures. The same research also shows that these localized pollution sources have a disproportionate effect on low income communities.


This lecture will address both the science of localized air pollution impacts and the policy implications of this science. Dr. Ritz will discuss the findings of her recent research, Air Pollution Impacts on Pregnant Women, Infants and Children, about the additional health risk for pregnant women and their children who live close to high traffic arterial streets. Dr. Balmes will present his thoughts, as a scientist and a state regulator, about how policy approaches might be developed to better protect communities from the health effects of local pollution.


About the Speakers


John R. Balmes, M.D.

Dr. Balmes is a Professor of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco where he is Chief of the Division of Occupational and Environmental Medicine at San Francisco General Hospital, Director of the Human Exposure Laboratory of the Lung Biology Center, and Attending Physician in Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine. He is also Professor of Environmental Health Sciences at the University of California, Berkeley where he is the Director of the Northern California Center for Occupational and Environmental Health and the Center for Environmental Public Health Tracking. He was appointed to the California Air Resources Board by Governor Schwarzenegger in December 2007.


Beate Ritz, M.D., Ph.D.

Dr. Ritz has been a member of the UCLA School of Public Health at UCLA since1995. She is currently Professor and Vice Chair of the Epidemiology Department and holds co-appointments in the Department of Environmental Health at the UCLA School of Public Health and in the Department of Neurology at the UCLA School of Medicine. She is a member of the Center for Occupational and Environmental Health, the Southern California Environmental Health Science Center, and co-directs the NIEHS-funded UCLA Center for Gene-Environment Studies of Parkinson’s disease. Dr. Ritz received her M.D. and a Ph.D. in Medical Sociology from the University of Hamburg, Germany in 1983 and 1987; she was a research fellow and resident at the Psychiatric University-Hospital in Hamburg from 1987-1989 and received doctoral training and a Ph.D. in Epidemiology in 1995 from UCLA. For the past decade, she has studied the effects of air pollution on adverse birth outcomes as well as asthma in children in Southern California. In 2006, she received the Robert M. Zweig Memorial Award for outstanding achievement in air quality.