Building University-Community Partnerships

Los Laureles Canyon Toxicant Survey – Collaboration in Action

The UCSD Superfund Research Center’s (SRC) Community Engagement Core (CEC) is a community-university partnership to help reduce exposures to crossborder flows of hazardous wastes and to improve environmental public health in the San Diego-Tijuana city-region. The CEC’s first step in this initiative, was to conduct a toxicant survey and environmental health needs assessment from those living within and adjacent to the Los Laureles Canyon. Los Laureles Canyon covers a 4.6 square mile area of the Tijuana River Watershed, where rainfall and water runoff flows through it as it travels across the U.S.-Mexico border and into the Tijuana Estuary. This canyon is home to roughly 80,000 people, who are exposed to environmental toxicants as result of rapid population growth under conditions of poverty, disorganized settlement and deficient infrastructure.

Los Laureles Canyon

Designing and carrying out the survey was a community-based participatory process of engagement. UCSD’s SRC CEC, in collaboration with UCSD’s Center for U.S.-Mexican Studies, provided the theoretical framework and expertise in scientific research design and methodology. Alter Terra, a Tijuana based NGO, and the Autonomous University of Baja California School of Medicine and Psychology (UABC) provided the community knowledge and trained surveyors to execute this field research.

During the spring of 2013, 388 face-to-face interview surveys were conducted by the students of UABC under the leadership of Alter Terra, in the neighborhoods of:
• San Bernardo
• Rancho Los Flores
• Divina Providencia
• Mirador.

The 20 minute survey consisted of questions asking information about the following:
• Demographics
• Water Hygiene and Sanitation
• Health-related Discomforts and Symptoms
• Disease History
• Public Safety and Services
• Access to Medical Care

This survey effort benefits each of its collaborating partners:
• The CEC is fulfilling its obligations to reach out to the community
• Alter Terra is fulfilling its obligation to the community in Los Laureles by engaging in important research that benefits community residents
• The Center for US-Mexican Studies is fulfilling part of its mandate to include cross border research
• The Autonomous University of Baja California School of Medicine and Psychology (UABC) students and staff are receiving research training and fulfilling their academic obligations

CEC is currently in the process of analyzing the survey data, the results of which will be presented to the Los Laureles Canyon communities.

As part of the environmental health needs assessment, UCSD’s CEC in collaboration with its Research Translation Core (RTC) is testing soil collected from six targeted sites in the canyon for toxicants. The results of the toxicant survey will be compared with the results of the soil analysis to see if there are relationships between the health-related symptoms of the canyon’s occupants and toxicants found in the soil.

Click here for more photos of the survey in process


UCSD Superfund Research Center
University of California, San Diego
Pharmacology Department
9500 Gilman Drive, Mail Code 0722
La Jolla, CA 92093-0722