Traffic on the freeway

Community Air Quality Project


Who We Are

(The CAB) The Center for Healthy Communities (CHC) in partnership with J.W. North High School convened a CAB consisting of community members, stakeholders, and Community-based organizations, with varying expertise on climate change. They are working collaboratively to develop strategies to effectively address the health impacts related to poor air quality that is plaguing the Inland Empire community.

In 2016, it was estimated that 20% of Riverside residents earned income below the poverty line. For a household of three to be qualified for low income housing tax credit apartments in Riverside, the combined income of household members should not exceed $36,420, which is roughly $8,600 shy of the median household income of residents in the 92507 zip code in Riverside. Furthermore, a global review of social disparities and air pollution exposure reveals that low SES communities face higher concentrations of air pollutants. With a majority of the 92507 zip code residents living in a low SES census tract, it is not surprising that they experience higher exposures to air pollutants.

Air pollution map

As such, UCR is establishing a partnership called the Engagement Resource Collaborative (ERC) to launch an initiative to improve the air quality in Riverside, California. This effort will tie together the breadth of UCR expertise from the School of Medicine, the College of Engineering, and community partners to assist faculty and community groups in understanding and developing sustainable solutions to our region’s pressing challenges. Funding received from the California Air Resources Board (CARB) has made it possible for residents living in Riverside’s Eastside community to play an active role in an air quality project aimed at improving the air quality in Riverside. The Riverside community air quality project is composed of three phases, all three phases of the project will employ a community-based participatory research (CBPR) method whereby all partners get involved equitably throughout the research process and in which all partners contribute expertise and decision making ownership.

The Effect of Poor Air Quality on Our Health & Quality of Life

According to the California Air Resources Board, millions of Californians, especially those in the Los Angeles, Inland Empire, and the San Joaquin Valley, live with the worst air quality in the country and suffer the illnesses and symptoms made worse by air pollution. Our state is also seeing major economic and quality of life impacts from a warming world, including deeper, prolonged drought, more intense wildfires and rising sea levels.

Table 1: Total number of residents reported to have asthma or cardiovascular disease per Census track as per CalEnviroScreen
Census Tract Tract 1 Tract 2 Tract 3 Tract 4 Tract 5 Tract 6 Tract 7 Tract 8 Tract 9
# of Residents with Asthma or Cardiovasuclar Disease 131 181 183 185 136 136 138 106 67

A major point of concern among Inland Southern California community members is the ever-increasing number of heavy-duty diesel trucks and their associated impacts on sensitive populations (ex: children, the elderly). According to CalEnviroScreen, the Riverside community is disproportionately impacted from cumulative exposure to pollution, rating in the top 10% of impacted communities throughout the state. A main contributing factor is high particulate matter air pollution, primarily from diesel truck operations. This is one reason why residents in the Riverside area experience adverse health impacts such as asthma on a regular or semi-regular basis.

The J.W. North High School Project

Riverside’s J.W. North High School and the surrounding neighborhood will be conducting a study of air quality concerns in the area. Due to the school’s proximity to the intersections of SR60/I-215 on-ramp, the area is experiencing the effects of increased truck traffic. As a partner on this study, the ERC will begin a regional effort to highlight the area’s unique concerns through monitoring campaigns. Our residents, students, teachers, and community members will help the study team discover connections between pollution sources and health, as well as develop community-based strategies that engage with a range of public and private stakeholders to help improve the area’s air quality.

Why is it Important to Innovate on Air Quality in California?

trucks next to a soccer field

Transportation and logistics are a vital part of the economy in the Inland Empire and finding ways to reduce and mitigate the health and quality of life impacts of air pollution is critical to ensuring inclusive and sustainable economic development in the region. The solutions we find, both technical and civic, also have the potential to dramatically improve quality of life in Southern California. The state has allocated resources to help us identify solutions to reduce our exposure to contaminates and prepare for the impacts of global warming. This effort will not only have health benefits, but will promote inclusive development, encourage active transportation (ex: walking and biking), and further economic investment.

Air Quality Summit Highlights

CHC, in partnership with UCR Ce-CERT and RUSD, hosted the Air Quality Showcase & Awards Ceremony. We gathered to celebrate the work of the community and high schools in spreading the word about pollution. City of Riverside and environmental employers in the area were in attendance to discuss air quality activities going on in our community. Research participants from our Clean-Air Artistic Expression Contest were highlighted along with Air Quality Projects and PSA done by our local high school students. You may see the art contest winners here.

Winners Announced in Air Quality Short-Film Contest

We are happy to announce the winners of our Air Quality Short-Film contest. - Empower You Edutainment and the NAACP Youth Council. See the videos below, or click the link to watch them on You Tube.

Empower You Edutainment
NAACP Youth Council

The Air Quality Short-Film contest engagee the community in civic engagement via the arts to showcase the impacts of poor air quality on health and ways to counteract poor air quality within the Inland Empire. The contest is sponsored by the Engagement Resource Collaborative (ERC), led by the College of Engineering, Center for Environmental Research and Technology (CE-CERT), and the Center for Healthy Communities (CHC).

Get Involved

If you are interested in getting involved contact the Center for Healthy Communities at

CAP program partners