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How Dirty Is Your Air?


By Jesy Odio '15

Published Jun 27, 2014 8:00 AM

UCLA students have developed an interactive website to track L.A.'s toxic waste.


Do you wonder if that factory not far from your home emits toxins into the neighborhood?

Until recently, questions about industrial facilities’ environmental effect on the Los Angeles environment were rarely answered. But now, seven environmental science students at UCLA are measuring the emissions of 172 industries in L.A. County and making the results available to the public online through a website called Cal EcoMaps.

The website provides an interactive map that is a simple yet effective way to outline manufacturing establishments in the county and rate their emissions of primary metals, petroleum, chemicals, and fabricated metals.

"We wanted to target these four industries because they account for 89 percent of the total toxic releases in L.A. County," says student Leanna Huynh.

The map enables users to click on each factory and see how it has been graded based on five different levels: total amount of toxic release, releases per $1,000 revenue, toxicity of total releases, percentage of waste treated through energy recovery and recycling, and cancer risks.

The EcoMaps project is part of the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) University Challenge administered through UCLA’s Institute of Environment and Sustainability (IoES). It was a nine-month senior practicum and was one of 11 projects undertaken by students. This kind of assignment permits students to work closely with companies and experience what it is like to execute an analysis for a professional client in the real world.

The environmental science major at UCLA, begun in 2006, has already created a lasting impression. A bachelor’s degree program that started with only 10 students now enrolls 270 who are taught by 100 faculty members.

Cal EcoMaps is useful to both factories and neighborhoods, in making them aware of the toxic levels emitted. The website’s ultimate goal is to provide insight for the community and raise the industries’ awareness of their impact in their local districts.

"If the public doesn’t care, then the facilities won’t care," says student Ha Hyun Chung. "And how would they care without access to this information in the first place?”

This story is based on an article in UCLA Newsroom. To view the original full-length article, visit



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