Rachel Morello-Frosch PhD, MPH

Professor, Environmental Science, Policy and Management
  • PhD - Environmental Health Science, School of Public Health, University of California, Berkeley
  • MPH - Epidemiology & Biostatistics, University of California, Berkeley
  • BS - Development Studies, University of California, Berkeley
  • ESPM 167-PH 160: Environmental Health and Development
  • PH 202B-ESPM 250: Ethnicity and Culture in Health Status and Behavior
Research Interests: 
  • Race and class determinants of the distribution of health risks associated with air pollution among diverse communities in the United States
  • structural determinants of environmental health disparities
  • air pollution and perinatal outcomes
  • environmental justice
  • models for community-based environmental health research
  • social movements, science, and environmental health policy-making
  • ethics of biomonitoring and exposure assessment
Research Description: 

My research focuses on environmental health and environmental justice. I am particularly interested in addressing the double jeopardy faced by communities of color and the poor who experience high exposures to environmental hazards and who are more vulnerable to the toxic effects of pollution due to poverty, malnutrition, discrimination, and underlying health conditions. How do matters of race and class affect distributions of health risks in the United States? What are the causes and consequences of environmental disparities and health inequalities? How can research create "upstream" opportunities for intervention and prevention? I am also interested in evaluating the influence of community participation on environmental health research, science, regulation, and policy-making, as well as in developing methods to foster community-based participatory research.

Current Projects: 

Understanding & Addressing Cumulative Impacts on California Communities
This project develops scientifically valid and publicly transparent analytical methods to identify disparities in environmental hazard exposures and health status for key population groups identified by race/ethnicity, socio-economic status, and other vulnerability indicators to inform regulatory decision-making and environmental policy.

Environmental Justice & Climate Change
This project convenes advocates and researchers to assess the disparate impact of climate change on communities of color and the poor with a focus on the following issues: (1) health and economic impacts of extreme weather events; (2) environmental justice and social equity implications of proposed greenhouse gas reduction strategies in California associated with the AB32 Scoping Plan; and (3) disparities in community capacity to adapt to environmental impacts of climate change.

Building a Regional Voice for Environmental Health & Justice in Southern CA
This community-academic collaboration combines economic and environmental health research, policy advocacy, and public education and organizing to improve environmental health in low-income communities of color in Southern California.

Integrating Measures of Cumulative Impact and Community-Level Vulnerability
This project studies the relationship between adverse birth outcomes and traffic density in California and how individual and neighborhood-level measures of vulnerability may amplify the toxic impacts of pollution exposures.

Merging Breast Cancer and Environmental Justice
This project examines issues of environmental justice through a study of household exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals linked to breast cancer in Richmond and Bolinas, California.

Air Pollution and Environmental Justice
This project has several goals: (1) to examine from the perspective of environmental equity the impacts of industrial, commercial, and transportation land use on specific neighborhoods; (2) to develop indicators of the cumulative impact of exposures and the relative vulnerability of various communities that can be used in regulatory decision-making and enforcement; and (3) to address data needs identified in the Cal/EPA EJ Advisory Committee Recommendations Report.

Disaster, Resilience, and the Built Environment on the Gulf Coast
This interdisciplinary project examines the resilience of the ecological and built environments in Gulf Coast communities, both urban and rural, that endure chronic wind and water damage from hurricanes.

Selected Publications: 

Balazs C, Morello-Frosch R, Hubbard AE, Ray I (2012). Environmental justice implications of arsenic contamination: regression analyses of exposure and compliance in community drinking water systems in California’s San Joaquin Valley. Environmental Health.

Holstius DM, Reid CE, Jesdale BM, Morello-Frosch R (2012). Birth Weight Following Pregnancy During the 2003 Southern California Wildfires. Environmental Health Perspectives doi:10.1289/ehp.1104515.

Shonkoff S, Morello-Frosch R, Pastor M, Sadd JL (2012). “The climate gap: Environmental health and equity implications of climate change and mitigation policies in California- a review of the literature.” Climatic Change, 109(1): 485-503.

Morello-Frosch R, Zuk M, Jerrett M, Shamasunder B, Kyle AD. (2011) “Understanding the cumulative impacts of inequalities in environmental health.” Health Affairs, 30(5):879-887.

Hall L, Iles A, Morello-Frosch R (2012) “Litigating Toxic Risks Ahead of Regulation: Biomonitoring Science in the Courtroom.” Stanford Environmental Law Journal, 31(1):3-47.

Balazs C, Morello-Frosch R, Hubbard A, Ray I (2011) “Social Disparities in Nitrate Contaminated Drinking Water in California’s San Joaquin Valley.” Environmental Health Perspectives. Published ahead of print -. Available at: doi:10.1289/ehp.1002878.

Sadd JL, Pastor M, Morello-Frosch R, Scoggins J, Jesdale B (2011): “Playing It Safe: Assessing Cumulative Impact and Social Vulnerability through an Environmental Justice Screening Method in the South Coast Air Basin, California. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 8: 1441-1459.

Morello-Frosch R, Jesdale B, Sadd J, Pastor M (2010) “Ambient Air Pollution Exposure and Risk of Low Birth Weight in California.” Environmental Health. 9: 44 doi:10.1186/1476-069X-9-44.

Morello-Frosch R, Brody JG, Brown P, Altman RG, Rudel R, Pérez C "Toxic ignorance and right-to-know in biomonitoring results communication: a survey of scientists and study participants." Environmental Health, 2009 Feb 28, 8:6. 

Brody JG, Morello-Frosch R, Brown P, Zota A, Pérez C, Rudel R "Linking Exposure Assessment Science with Policy Objectives for Environmental Justice and Breast Cancer Advocacy: The Northern California Household Exposure Study." American Journal of Public Health, Forthcoming.

Zota AR, Rudel RA, Morello-Frosch R, Brody JG "Elevated House Dust and Serum Concentrations of PBDEs in California: Unintended Consequences of Furniture Flammability Standards?" Environmental Science and Technology, 2008, 42(21):8158-64.

Altman R, Morello-Frosch R, Brody J, Rudel R , Brown P, Averick M: Pollution Comes Home and Gets Personal: Cape Cod Women's Experiences of Household Toxic Exposure." Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 2008 49(4):417-35.

Brody JG, Morello-Frosch R, Brown P, Rudel R, Altman R, Frye M, Osimo CC, Pérez C, Seryak L: "Is It Safe?—New Ethics for Reporting Personal Exposures to Environmental Chemicals." American Journal of Public Health, 2007 97:1547-1554.

Morello-Frosch R and Lopez, R: "The Riskscape and the Colorline: Examining the Role of Segregation in Environmental Health Disparities," Environmental Research, 2006 102(2): 181-196.

DeFur PL, Evans GW, Hubal EA, Kyle AD, Morello-Frosch RA, Williams DA: "Vulnerability as a Function of Individual and Group Resources in Cumulative Risk Assessment." Environmental Health Perspectives, 2007 115:817-824.

Morello-Frosch R and Shenassa, E: "The Environmental 'Riskscape' and Social Inequality: Implications for Explaining Maternal and Child Health Disparities." Environmental Health Perspectives, 2006, 114 (8):1150-1153.

Morello-Frosch R and Jesdale, B: "Separate and Unequal: Residential Segregation and Air Quality in the Metropolitan U.S." Environmental Health Perspectives 2006, 113: 386-393.

Pastor M, Morello-Frosch, R, Sadd J: "Breathless: Air Quality, Schools, and Environmental Justice in California." Policy Studies Journal , 2006, 34 (3): 337-362.

Greene A, Morello-Frosch R, Shenassa E: "Inadequate Prenatal Care and Elevated Blood Lead Levels Among Children Born in Providence, Rhode Island: A Population-Based Study." Public Health Reports, 2006, 121: 729-736.

Payne-Sturges D, Gee GC, Crowder K, Hurley BJ, Lee C, Morello-Frosch R, Rosenbaum A, Schultz A, Wells C, Woodruff T, Zenick H. Connecting Social and Environmental Factors to Measure and Track Environmental Health Disparities, Environmental Research, 2006 102(2): 146-153.

Morello-Frosch RA, Pastor M, Sadd J: "Integrating Environmental Justice and the Precautionary Principle in Research and Policy-Making: The Case of Ambient Air Toxics Exposures and Health Risks among School Children in Los Angeles." Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 2002, 584: 47-68.

Morello-Frosch RA: "The Political Economy of Environmental Discrimination." Environment and Planning C, Government and Policy, 2002, 20:477-496.

Morello-Frosch RA
, Pastor M, Porras C, Sadd J: "Environmental Justice and Regional Inequality in Southern California: Implications for Future Research." Environmental Health Perspectives, 2002, 110 (Supplement 2): 149-154.

Book chapters:

Shonkoff S, Morello-Frosch R , Pastor M, Sadd J (2009) "Environmental Health and Equity Impacts from Climate Change and Mitigation Policies in California: A Review of the Literature." In: Cal-EPA Climate Action Team Report. Publication # CEC-500-2009-038-D. Find out more

Brown P, Morello-Frosch R , Zavestoski S, Senier L, Altman RG, Hoover E, McCormick S, Mayer B, Adams C. "Health Social Movements: Advancing Traditional Medical Sociology Concepts." In Handbook of Health, Illness & Healing: Blueprint for the 21st Century, Bernice A. Pescosolido, Jack K. Martin, Jane McLeod, and Anne Rogers eds. New York, Springer, Forthcoming 2009

Brown P, Morello-Frosch R , Zavestoski S, Senier L, Altman RG, Hoover E, McCormick S, Mayer B, Adams C. "Field Analysis for Studying Health Social Movements." In Mayer Zald, Jane Banaszak-Holl, and Sandra Levitsky, eds., Social Movements and the Development of Health Institutions. Cambridge, Oxford University Press (Forthcoming 2009)

Morello-Frosch R, Zavestoski S, Brown P, McCormick S, Mayer B, Gasior R. "Social Movements in Health: Responses to and Shapers of a Changed Medical World." In The New Political Sociology of Science: Institutions, Networks, and Power. Kelly Moore and Scott Frickel, eds. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press. (2006).

Pastor M, Bullard RD, Boyce J, Fothergill A, Morello-Frosch R , Wright B: In the Wake of the Storm: Environment, Disaster, and Race after Katrina, May 2006 Russell Sage Foundation, New York, NY.

Morello-Frosch R, Pastor M, Sadd J, Porras C, Prichard M. "Citizens, Science, and Data Judo: Leveraging Community-based Participatory Research to Build a Regional Collaborative for Environmental Justice in Southern California." In Methods for Conducting Community-Based Participatory Research in Public Health. Barbara Israel, Eugenia Eng, Amy Shultz, Edith Parker, eds. University of Michigan, Jossey-Bass Press (2005).

Profile Updated: April 7, 2016