UCLA awarded a $21 million grant to study the health impacts of the Aliso Canyon disaster

A team of UCLA researchers has been awarded $20,993,333 by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health to conduct the Aliso Canyon Disaster Health Research Study

A multidisciplinary team of renowned UCLA scientists and health care practitioners will conduct the Health Study, which will consist of five components, including a health and health care use assessment, exposure assessment, community engagement, data management and statistical analysis, and overall program administration.  

The purpose of the Health Study is to evaluate the short and long-term health impacts of the gas blowout that happened in 2015– 2016. The Aliso Canyon disaster was the largest underground gas storage facility disaster in the history of the United States. The blowout, in the northwest San Fernando Valley, released an estimated 109,000 metric tons of methane into the atmosphere, along with other oil and gas constituents, over a period of nearly four months.

Roughly 232,200 residents lived within a five-mile radius of the facility. Residents reported experiencing foul odors, oily mists and a range of health symptoms including headaches, nausea, vomiting, nose bleeds, coughing and irritation of the eyes, nose and throat. 

“People living close to the Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility have legitimate questions about how emissions from the facility might affect their health now and in the future,” said Michael Jerrett, PhD, UCLA Fielding School of Public Health​ professor of environmental health sciences and co-principal investigator of the study. “We have brought together a team of the world’s best scientists to investigate the environmental and health impact of the facility, including physical and mental health, quality of life, and overall well-being throughout their life course. We will focus on studying health impacts from the blowout disaster in 2015–2016 and from the routine emissions from the facility. The outcomes of these studies will be exceptionally important and also at times, very complex. We will present these findings in a clear and approachable way to provide the information needed by residents, regulators, and policymakers to understand the disaster impacts and take actions when needed.”

Those leading the Health Study include: 

  • Dr. Michael Jerrett, PhD, PI and Exposure Core Lead, Director of the UCLA Center for Occupational and Environmental Health (COEH), Co-Director of the UCLA Center for Healthy Climate Solutions, and Professor of Environmental Health Sciences at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health;
  • Dr. Honghu Liu, PhD, PI and Data & Statistical Analysis Core Lead, Professor and Chair of the Section of Public and Population Health at the UCLA School of Dentistry, and Professor at UCLA Fielding School of Public Health and David Geffen School of Medicine; 
  • Dr. Nadereh Pourat, PhD, Project Manager, Program Administration Core Lead, Director of the Health Economics and Evaluation Research (HEER) Program at the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research (CHPR), and Professor at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health;
  • Dr. Jesus Araujo, MD, PhD, Health and Well-being Core Co-Lead and Professor at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health and David Geffen School of Medicine; 
  • Dr. Wendie Robbins, RN, PhD, Health and Well-being Core Co-Lead and Professor at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health and UCLA School of Nursing.  
  • Dr. David Eisenman, MD, Community Stakeholders Communications Core Lead, Co- Director in the UCLA Healthy Climate Solutions Center, and Professor at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health and David Geffen School of Medicine; and 
  • Dr. Diane A. Garcia-Gonzales, PhD, an air quality and climate change scientist at the UCLA Center for Healthy Climate Solutions.

The team of UCLA researchers and consultants includes well-established subject matter experts who have extensive experience in exposure assessment and advanced modeling methods, clinical evaluations, data processing and integration.

The Health Study will be overseen by a Scientific Oversight Committee (SOC), which is a panel of independent scientific experts and regulatory agency representatives, with additional stakeholder input from a Community Advisory Board (CAB).  Public Health will serve in an administrative contract oversight and monitoring capacity. 

“I’d like to thank the Scientific Oversight Committee and the panel of scientific and medical experts whose efforts enabled the solicitation and selection of this stellar research team,” said Barbara Ferrer, PhD, MPH, MEd, Director of Public Health. “With the researchers in place, we are on the path to scientifically investigate unanswered questions and concerns raised by the communities that were impacted by the Aliso Canyon disaster.” 

The contract will commence this month and the Health Study is set for a five-year term, with the option to extend it for up to five additional one-year periods.