ARB Research Seminar

This page updated June 19, 2013

Vulnerable Californians Experience Greater Pollutant Exposure and Impact

Photo of Ying-Ying Meng, Ph.D.

Ying-Ying Meng, Ph.D., Center for Health Policy Research, University of California, Los Angeles

March 13, 2013
Cal EPA Headquarters, 1001 "I" Street, Sacramento, CA

Press Release
Research Project


This study addresses the question: Is the disproportionate burden of asthma or asthma-like symptoms among low socioeconomic status individuals related to greater pollutant exposures, greater vulnerabilities, or both?

Using Geographic Information System (GIS) software, we linked California Health Interview Survey (CHIS) 2003 respondents’ residential addresses to government air monitoring stations for O₃, PM10, PM2.5, and NO₂. We calculated annual pollutant averages and days exceeding air quality standards and assessed traffic density and residential distance to roadways. Higher exposures were found for low income and racial/ethnic minority respondents with asthma for NO₂, PM10, and PM2.5, but not O₃. Among adults with asthma, we observed increases in adverse asthma outcomes, such as daily/weekly symptoms, asthma attacks, daily medication use, and asthma-related work absences and emergency department visits with increasing annual average pollutant concentrations. Among children with asthma, daily asthma medication use and school absences were associated with increased annual average NO₂ concentration. Similar positive associations were observed between O₃, PM10, and PM2.5 exceedance days and asthma outcomes, mainly for adults. When adjusting for confounders, associations between pollutants and asthma outcomes persisted. Notably, racial/ethnic minority and low income respondents had greater increases in adverse asthma outcomes for similar increases in NO₂ and PM10 exposures.

Speaker Biography

Ying-Ying Meng, Ph.D., is a senior research scientist and co-director of the Chronic Disease Program at the Center for Health Policy Research (Center), University of California, Los Angeles. Dr. Meng has focused her research on health and health care, with a particular emphasis on racial/ethnic minorities and those who are chronically ill.  She has been a principal investigator for several multi-year epidemiologic studies on asthma and air pollution funded by federal and state agencies. Dr. Meng is an accomplished researcher and has published studies using cutting edge methodologies. In her role as a co-director of the Center’s chronic disease program, Dr. Meng has established the Center as a recognized source of important analysis of population-based survey data to understand the relationship between environmental exposures and chronic disease morbidity.

Prior to joining the Center, Dr. Meng was Vice President of Wildflowers Institute. Dr. Meng also worked as a senior researcher in the Quality Initiatives Division of Foundation Health Systems and as Director of Programs at the Association of Asian Pacific Community Health Organizations. Dr. Meng provided consultation to private, government, and international agencies. Dr. Meng received special awards for her work, including the Kellogg Health Fellow and World Health Organization Fellow. Meng received her doctoral and master degrees in Health Policy and Administration from the University of California, Berkeley. Dr. Meng received her undergraduate education from Fudan University and completed medical school coursework, including Chinese traditional medicine in Shanghai, China.

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