Francisco Rios Casas

Major and Classification

Human Biology & American Studies and Ethnicity

Faculty Mentor

Juan de Lara, Ph.D.


American Studies and Ethnicity

McNair Project

“Understanding the Relationship between Demographic Changes in Southern California and Localized Environmental Health Risks”

Project Abstract

Studies on individuals’ daily exposure to different hazardous chemicals in Southern California have shown that many potential environmental health hazards are not equally distributed across socioeconomic groups. Although it is now possible to recognize areas of high hazards and high vulnerability, it is still unclear how these may change as a new organization of space and people occurs in the Los Angeles region. In order to understand the relationship between demographics and changing environmental hazards, an examination of changes at the local level were considered along with changes in air hazard data from the national Air Quality System (AQS). Demographic and environmental information from the years 2000 through 2010 were obtained and analyzed together using Geographic Information System (GIS) software to track proximity and change over time. Preliminary analyses have shown that there are very distinct changes which have taken place in various parts of Southern California and these often correspond to some of the areas with above average levels of pollution. Given the relative abruptness of these changes, it is unclear whether relevant parties or the region as a whole are prepared to take the necessary steps to ensure former patterns of environmental injustices are not repeated. These findings could also have implications for understanding how communities change and how urbanization can contribute to overall quality of life.