Air Pollution and Health: A Science-Policy Initiative Published by The National Academies of Sciences and Medicine from South Africa, Brazil, Germany, and the United States of America

In the statement, the five National Academies are also jointly calling for immediate action from all levels of society. This includes a request for emissions controls in all countries and proper monitoring of key pollutants - especially PM2.5. PM2.5 is one of the smallest particulates in the air we breathe, which can enter and impact all organs of the body. The science academies specify the need for increased funding to tackle the problem and substantial investment in measures to reduce air pollution. This can also help to reduce climate change and contribute to meeting the goal of limiting average global warming to 1.5ºC.

With this statement, the academies provide further scientific input for the global climate action summit, which the UN Secretary General will hold in September this year and where air pollution and health will be an issue of great concern. The five National academies invite science academies, research institutes, universities and individual scientists worldwide to join the initiative and to strengthen research and science-policy activities in the area of "Air Pollution and Health".

Professor Kirk R. Smith Awarded Honorary Professor of Tsinghua University

KRS & Ke Hebin.jpg

On May 26th, 2019, the appointment ceremony of Tsinghua Honorary Professor Kirk Robert Smith was held in School of Environment, Tsinghua University. Prof. Kebin HE, Dean of the School of Environment, and invited faculty members, alumni, and students attended the ceremony. The ceremony was chaired by Professor Wang Shuxiao, Director of State Environmental Protection Key Laboratory of Sources and Control of Air Pollution Complex. 

Professor He Kebin briefly introduced Professor Kirk Robert Smith’s distinguished achievements and his long collaborations with Tsinghua University. He warmly welcomed Prof. Smith joining Tsinghua and expected him to play an important role in advancing the teaching and research of environmental engineering in Tsinghua University. Then he delivered the “Honorary Professor” Appointment Certificate of Tsinghua University to Professor Smith. 

In the acceptance speech, Professor Smith accepted the appointment, and said that he felt much honored to be a member of Tsinghua University. Then he highly spoke of Tsinghua University and shared his and his uncle’s story with China, with Tsinghua. He highlighted the great progress in China's air pollution control and reviewed the long-term cooperation with Tsinghua University in studies on air pollution exposure assessment. He also highly spoke the high level of research, faculty and student development at School of Environment and looked forward to the continued in-depth exchanges and cooperation with Tsinghua University in the future.

In his keynote speech following the ceremony, Professor Smith introduced the frontier research on air pollution exposure, highlighted the characteristics of air pollution exposure in India, China and California, and proposed optimal effective measures for ambient air pollution control with focus on exposure assessment from source exposure with an example of the California approach, where community groups are trained and were allowed to voluntarily participate in monitoring exposure in their neighborhood, with a goal of not leaving some populations out who are receiving high exposures.

The invitation of Professor Smith to be the “Honorary Professor” of Tsinghua University will greatly promote the development of our school's environmental health discipline, enhance the international influence of our school's relevant research, and even increase the general public's awareness of health impact of exposure to air pollution.

Reported by Huang Guanghan

Dealing with Climate Change - Interview with Business Economics

Dealing with Climate Change” focus on India - Professor Kirk R. Smith was interviewed by Business Economics . May 2019.

Honorary Professorship from Mongolia National University of Medical Sciences

Professor Kirk Smith receiving an Honorary Professorship from Mongolia National University of Medical Sciences, presented by the university president, Tsolmon Jadamba, on March 28, 2019.

Health Effects Institute: Household Air Pollution and Noncommunicable Disease

HEI Communication 18, Household Air Pollution and Noncommunicable Disease, and the related Summary for Policy Makers are now available online. This communication provides a critical assessment of the state of the science examining the linkages between household air pollution formed by the burning of solid fuels and noncommunicable diseases. The report updates previous systematic reviews with the most recent studies. It answers fundamental questions on the scientific basis for estimating health burden and what the evidence suggests about the exposure reductions necessary to achieve improved health outcomes. The Summary for Policy Makers, based on Communication 18, presents the main conclusions about exposures to household air pollution and about its contribution to noncommunicable diseases globally and can be downloaded by clicking here.

Undercooked: An Expensive Push to Save Lives and Protect the Planet Falls Short

Millions of lives were at stake. Hillary Clinton was on board. Money poured in. And yet the big aims behind an effort to tackle the plague of third-world cooking fires has produced only modest gains. ProPublica July 12, 2018 article

Also available online. 


Winds of Change, National Geographic Documentary on the Household LPG Program in India

Wind of Change is a production of National Geographic featuring the Household LPG Program in India (June 2018). Includes interviews with Dr. Sunita Narain, Director of the Centre for Science and Environment and Dr. Kirk Smith.


Clean Air Crowdsourcing Competition for Students at Indian Institutions, deadline January 5, 2018

 CCAPC/TERI solicit novel ideas that propose ways to reduce the scale and impact of ambient air pollution in India. Innovative entries within or across the spectrum from technological, regulatory, and behavioral angles are encouraged. Entrants should consider the problem of ambient air pollution in any part of the country and from any source as well as the problems in Delhi.  The deadline is January 5, 2018. Submit online here.

Disease Control Priorities, 3rd Edition Launches Volume on Injury Prevention & Environmental Health

SEATTLE, Washington – Injuries, occupational exposures, and environmental risks account for over 12 million deaths per year, with the majority of those deaths occurring in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). According to new findings presented in the latest volume of Disease Control Priorities, 3rd Edition (DCP3) on Injury Prevention and Environmental Health, over 7.5 million of these deaths could be averted annually with better implementation of effective interventions and policies that address this large burden.

Dr. Olive Kobusingye, volume editor and Accident and Emergency Surgeon at Makerere University College of Health Sciences, Kampala, Uganda says, “We present a robust package of multi-sectoral policies and population-based approaches that are feasible and affordable and could significantly reduce mortality in low-income settings.”

Published by the World Bank Group, the DCP3 Injury Prevention and Environmental Health volume identifies essential prevention strategies and related policies that address substantial population health needs. Risk from injury, occupation, air pollution, unclean water, and poor sanitation are highlighted and interventions to confront these risks are included in DCP3’s essential packages for injury and occupational health, and environmental health. The packages emphasize the importance of cost-effective and cost-beneficial strategies to address common causes of injury and environmental risks.

Dr. Charles Mock, lead volume editor and Professor of Surgery at the University of Washington hopes that this volume will bring more awareness to the unmet needs of people affected by injury and environmental factors, particularly those living in low- and middle-income countries.

“Inadequate attention has been given to these conditions which represent a major global health problem,” says Dr. Mock. “Understanding the relatively predictable patterns of these disorders and risk factors can assist the global health community with planning robust prevention efforts. We saw considerable improvements in access to clean water and sanitation when this issue was included in the 2000 Millennium Development Goals. Those efforts should expand to other environmental and safety risks.”

The volume is available now open access on the World Bank’s Open Knowledge Repository and on the DCP3website. The full DCP3 series is comprised of nine individual volumes that are being published between 2015 - 2018.  For more information or to download chapters, visit and follow DCP3 on Twitter using @DCPthree and #DCP3.  

Domestic air pollution turning homes into deathtraps - WION News, India

900 thousand people die from indoor air pollution in India alone. The government is trying hard to introduce clean fuel. But, in rural India people are still reluctant to use clean fuel. WION's Madhumita Saha brings you this startling report (WION). Video available here. 

Soup to Nuts: Finding, Understanding, and Coming to Grips with the Largest Environmental Health Risk Factor in the World

Saban Research Institute Annual Symposium: GLOBAL IMPACT OF POLLUTION ON MATERNAL AND CHILD HEALTH ACROSS THE LIFE SPAN, February 9, 2017, Los Angeles, California.  Presentation available at the Children's Hospital of Los Angeles symposium website


WION Interview with Kirk Smith: Air Pollution is the Biggest Health Risk Factor in India

Rising pollution is cutting short lives and impacting our world like never before. WION correspondent Madhumita Saha spoke to Professor Kirk Smith about health challenges and how it can be tackled. 

Interview available here. 


Democracy Now: By 2085 All U.S. Cities Except San Francisco Will Be Too Hot to Host Summer Olympics

Democracy Now:

A new article in the medical journal The Lancet has concluded much of the Northern Hemisphere will be too hot by 2085 to host the Summer Olympics. Researchers are projecting only eight cities in the hemisphere outside of Western Europe would be cool enough to host the Games. This includes just three cities in North America: Calgary, Vancouver and San Francisco. The list of cities where it could be too hot is staggering: Istanbul, Madrid, Rome, Paris, Budapest, Tokyo, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles—and the list goes on. Extreme high temperatures have already impacted the athletic world. In 2007, high heat forced the cancellation of the Chicago Marathon. At this year’s U.S. Olympic marathon trials in Los Angeles, 30 percent of the runners dropped out of the race due to the heat. For more, we speak with Kirk Smith, lead author of the article and professor of global environmental health at the University of California, Berkeley.

Read the transcript here.

Washington Post: By 2085, most cities could be too hot for the Summer Olympics

Washington Post, Energy and Environment, August 16, 2016 Article on Smith et al. Lancet article.

From the article:

... scientists are going further by using the Games to teach a grim climate lesson. At a high-end scenario for greenhouse gas emissions, a team of researchers write in the influential medical journal The Lancet, fewer and fewer major cities will be able to host a Summer Olympics as the end of the century nears. The reason? Too much risk of seeing weather conditions get so hot and humid that they would pose a major heat illness danger to athletes.

Berkeley News: "Warming world may put most cities off limits for summer Olympics"

Berkeley News covers Professor Smith and Professor Balmes's recent article in the Lancet and features it on their home page. 

LPG scheme is historic opportunity to improve households’ health, Financial Express, New Delhi, April 28, 2016

LPG scheme is historic opportunity to improve households’ health

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will unveil the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY) at Ballia in Uttar Pradesh on May 1. The scheme aims to provide LPG connections without security deposits to 50 million women from BPL households over the next three years.

Air Pollution, What Can We Do?

Beijing is shrouded in choking smog. Internationally, diesel cars have been rigged to cheat on emissions tests. How concerned should you be? Kirk R. Smith, PhD, MPH, Director of the Global Health and Environment Program at UC Berkeley, studies the dangers of airborne pollutants, and discusses what we can do to limit the risk.  Air Pollution, What Can We Do?

World Health Assembly closes, passing resolutions on air pollution...

26 MAY 2015 ¦ GENEVA - The World Health Assembly closed today, with Director-General Dr Margaret Chan noting that it had passed several “landmark resolutions and decisions”. Three new resolutions were passed today: one on air pollution, one on epilepsy and one laying out the next steps in finalizing a framework of engagement with non-State actors.

Air pollution

Delegates at the World Health Assembly adopted a resolution to address the health impacts of air pollution – the world’s largest single environmental health risk. Every year 4.3 million deaths occur from exposure to indoor air pollution and 3.7 million deaths are attributable to outdoor air pollution. This was the first time the Health Assembly had debated the topic.

The resolution highlights the key role national health authorities need to play in raising awareness about the potential to save lives and reduce health costs, if air pollution is addressed effectively. It also stresses the need for strong cooperation between different sectors and integration of health concerns into all national, regional and local air pollution-related policies. It urges Member States to develop air quality monitoring systems and health registries to improve surveillance for all illnesses related to air pollution; promote clean cooking, heating and lighting technologies and fuels; and strengthen international transfer of expertise, technologies and scientific data in the field of air pollution.

The resolution asks the WHO Secretariat to strengthen its technical capacities to support Member States in taking action on air pollution. This includes further building capacity to: implement the "WHO air quality guidelines" and "WHO indoor air quality guidelines; conduct cost-benefit assessment of mitigation measures; and advance research into air pollution’s health effects and effectiveness. At the Sixty-ninth World Health Assembly, WHO will propose a road map for an enhanced global response by the health sector that reduces the adverse health effects of air pollution.

The final resolution is available here.

Research Profile: Kirk R. Smith

“We’ve put the problem of household air pollution on the map, and it is recognized as one of most important public health issues in the world.”



In the early 1980s, Kirk R. Smith PhD ’77, MPH ’72 was a newly minted professor initiating the first studies anywhere on indoor air pollution in the developing world. His research began with the documentation of indoor air pollution in villages from solid-fuel cookstoves, which burn fuel such as wood or coal, and the health impacts on those who use them. Today Smith is widely acknowledged as a world leader on household air pollution and its impacts on health and climate change. Smith, along with other researchers and graduate students, documented health and social impacts like chronic lung disease, and the dangers facing women during fuel collection trips. They also developed tools for measuring pollution levels and rating cookstoves to help identify designs that emit less pollution. 

Through the 1990s, as climate change assumed greater importance in the scientific world, Smith’s work grew to include documentation of cookstoves’ worldwide contribution to climate change.

Along the way, Smith and his colleagues developed the concept of “co-benefits,” the accepted term today for anti-pollution efforts that deliver both health and climate outcomes—a reduction in smoke from cookstoves, for example, improves health as it boosts overall outdoor air quality and reduces the impacts of climate change.

But despite his more than three decades in the field, Smith still itches to make more concrete improvements in his chosen field.

He cites the example of a woman in India, who was a subject in his first study, in 1981, of cookstoves and household air pollution. The woman was the first person in the world to wear a pollution monitor in her dwelling, while she cooked on a traditional cookstove. Smith keeps a photo of her—with the monitor around her waist—in his office.

Smith revisited the village last summer and looked the woman up. She remembered Smith and the study in which she had participated, and the two posed for photos together. But Smith saw the woman still cooking on the same pollution-spewing cookstove as when he met her 33 years ago.

“We’ve put the problem of household air pollution on the map, and it is recognized as one of most important public health issues in the world. It is sobering, however, that poor water and sanitation were recognized as a problem in the late 1800s, but still pose serious health risks in poor countries. We don’t want to be 120 years from now and have still not done anything about household air pollution,” says Smith. “At this point, I’m not so interested in finding yet another disease associated with it—the question is, what do we do about it that works?”

With that question in mind, Smith has been contributing to Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports for many years. The IPCC is the leading international body for the assessment of climate change, operating under the auspices of the United Nations. It does not conduct research or monitor climate change data, but focuses on review and assessment of the most recent scientific, technical, and socioeconomic information produced worldwide relevant to the understanding of climate change.

“It’s very complicated business, climate change,” says Smith. “The IPCC reports are the mother of all assessments; they are the most comprehensive review available anywhere. They are signed off on by 190 governments, ranging from Saudi Arabia to Cuba, with 800 scientists directly contributing—and that’s a remarkable achievement for humanity.”

Smith is a convening lead author for the health chapter of the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report, which was published in October 2014. In 2007, he was a contributing author to the Fourth Assessment Report of the IPCC. The IPCC shared that year’s Nobel Peace Prize with former Vice President Al Gore.

Complete online article