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 www.dcp-3.org 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

Kirk Smith honored with California’s premier air quality award

2014 Haagen-Smit awards recognize outstanding air quality achievements in research, science and technology advancements
Release Date: 07/01/2015
By Jasmin M. Huynh

Kirk R. Smith, professor of global environmental health at the UC Berkeley School of Public Health, is one of three recipients of the 2014 Haagen-Smit Clean Air Award. He was recognized for his leadership in research and international efforts in the area of household air pollution from solid-fuel burning traditional cookstoves. 

Haagen-Smit Clean Air Awards, the "Nobel Prize" in air quality achievement, are given annually by the California Air Resources Board (ARB) to individuals who have made significant lifetime contributions toward improving air quality and climate change science, technology and policy, furthering the protection of public health.

"These three individuals have championed public health with extraordinary contributions to air pollution science, research and technology," says ARB Chairman Mary D. Nichols. "The Haagen-Smit Award is our way of honoring these individuals who have demonstrated a sustained commitment to protecting public health throughout their long and distinguished careers."

Smith’s research on the complexity of household air pollution exposure was critical in the development of global burden of disease estimates by the World Health Organization, which now ascribes more than four million premature deaths to household smoke from solid fuels. He has documented the associated risk for pneumonia and adverse birth outcomes in children, and for cataracts, tuberculosis, heart disease, and chronic lung disease in women. 

He holds visiting professorships in India and China where he has worked since the early 1980s collecting field measurements, pursuing quantitative research, and working closely with medical and engineering professionals to bring clean air to residents of developing countries, particularly those who, by virtue of their household circumstances, suffer extremely high exposures to smoke from solid-fuel burning in traditional cookstoves.

Smith’s research and influence also extend to energy and climate. He was a key participant in the Global Energy Assessment and lead author of the health chapter in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Working Group on Impacts. He serves on a number of national and international scientific advisory committees, including the National Research Council’s Board on Atmospheric Science and Climate, the Executive Committee for the World Health Organization’s Air Quality Guidelines, and the International Comparative Risk Assessment of the Global Burden of Disease Project. 

He was elected as a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences in 1997. In 2009, he received the Heinz Prize in Environment and was awarded the Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement in 2012.

Smith was honored with the Haagen-Smit Clean Air Award on June 25 in Sacramento. He also gave a Clean Air Leadership Talk on June 24. The two other recipients of the award are Donald R. Blake, professor of chemistry at UC Irvine, and John C. Wall, vice president and chief technical officer for diesel engine manufacturer Cummins Inc.

The award is named for the late Dr. Arie Haagen-Smit, known as the "father" of air pollution science and control. The award recognizes those who continue his legacy through perseverance, leadership, and innovation in the areas of research, environmental policy, science and technology, public education, and community service. The selection committee is comprised of past award winners.

UC Berkeley SPH News




Household Energy, Climate, & Health Research Group Awarded $1.5 million by U.S. EPA

U.S. EPA awards U.C. Berkeley $1.5 million to evaluate air pollution in developing nations
Release Date: 05/28/2014
Contact Information: Rusty Harris-Bishop, harris-bishop.rusty@epa.gov, 415.972.3140

(5/28/2014) SAN FRANCISCO – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today announced it is awarding the University of California, Berkeley, a $1.5 million grant for work to assess the impact of pollution from household and village-scale stoves on air quality in developing countries. The grant is part of $9 million awarded nationally to six universities to research cleaner technologies and fuels for cooking, lighting, and heating homes. 

“More than three billion people worldwide rely on burning fuels such as wood, plant matter, and animal waste for domestic cooking,” said Jared Blumenfeld, EPA’s Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “The soot produced by these unventilated stoves is thousands of times more potent than carbon dioxide in terms of global warming.”

This project addresses whether health benefits can be gained by exchanging a single stove in a home, or whether neighborhood scale interventions are needed to reduce personal exposures to cookstove emissions. Measurements of pollution traveling between indoor and outdoor air are crucial to fully understanding the health and climatic impacts of indoor cookstoves. Because of this project’s focus on the exchange between residential and outdoor pollution and its focus on India, the research adds great value to the scientific and geographic aspects of the portfolio. 

This research will be particularly valuable in evaluating which intervention type and spatial scale can provide the most effective air quality improvements relating to human health. The results will also improve air quality modeling of cookstove emissions surrounding households by comparing real world monitoring data to modeled assessments. 

Air emissions from these stoves lead to an estimated four million deaths per year. Researchers receiving funding are also determining the health and environmental benefits of cleaner cooking techniques. In the United States, cookstoves are commonly used in tribal communities of the desert Southwest.

Traditional cookstoves are a major source of black carbon aerosols, producing one-fifth of all black carbon emissions globally. Aerosols are solid and liquid particles suspended in the atmosphere that impact our climate by affecting the amount of radiation from the sun that reaches the earth. Black carbon is emitted directly into the atmosphere in the form of particulate matter. In addition to contributing to climate change, these particles disrupt precipitation patterns and accelerate the melting of snow and ice, which many people rely on for drinking water and farming.

This Science to Achieve Results (STAR) funded research will focus on measuring and communicating the benefits of adopting cleaner cooking, heating, and lighting practices. The research will describe the benefits for slowing climate change as well as for protecting both indoor and outdoor air quality. 

For more information, visit: http://epa.gov/ncer/rfa/2012/2012_star_cook_heat_light.html 

Central European University News Coverage of lecture by Dr. Smith

Measures Must Be Taken Now to Mitigate Climate Change, Smith Says

May 9, 2014

On the heels of the most recent meeting of the United Nations Environment Programme's International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Berkeley Professor Kirk Smith visited CEU to deliver a lecture on “Climate Change, Air Pollution, and Health: Co-benefits and Cross-benefits.” At the May 5 event, Smith emphasized that the steps we take – or fail to take – to mitigate negative climate change have long-term effects.

“The policy issues that we have to start working on now to change things are based on what we can't even measure yet (until after 2050),” he said. “You're always 50 years behind, before you can actually start seeing the benefits of what you do now.”

Human action or inaction in the last 50 years has led to CO2 levels that are higher now than any time in the past 400,000 years and the surface of the earth has warmed .08 degrees since the pre-industrial era. Often people dismiss the idea of global warming when massive blizzards hit and during prolonged periods of very cold temperatures. However, it's not individual high or low temperatures that determine climate change, it's the overall trend. Smith pointed out that we now – since 1950 – have more record high temperatures in the Western U.S. than low.


The most recent meeting of the IPCC reveals bleak scenarios for the late 21st century, including high certainty that incremental warming will continue along with increased heat waves/spells. Sea-level will also continue to rise, and we can expect both an increase in heavy precipitation in some parts of the world, while persistent drought will plague other parts.


Cooking and heating fuels used in underdeveloped countries is the “the largest single risk regarding environmental health,” Smith said. Cleaner-burning fuels are available but not usually financially accessible for large, poor populations. Solar-powered, induction and other “greener” stoves are also available but are not yet being mass produced.

The key to mitigating climate change, Smith noted, is in balancing global inequality of resources, including food, reproductive health care, and technology. To put it in perspective, Smith gave the example of how weather events affect countries differently. “The same size hurricane or tropical storm can hit Bangladesh and kill 10,000 people and only ten in Florida, because Florida is better protected.” He also noted the very stark difference between the developed world and underdeveloped world by noting the effects of malaria, a curable disease. According to the World Heath Organization, in 2012, 90 percent of the world’s malaria deaths occurred in Africa and about 460,000 African children died before their fifth birthdays.

Access to reproductive healthcare is vital to helping the poor, too, and to overall climate protection, Smith said. The IPCC Fifth Assessment reports that, globally, several hundred million women who wish to limit their families have restricted access to birth control. Fertility rate could be reduced by 0.5 births per woman (worldwide) by satisfying unmet demand for contraception, and such a shift would lower CO2 emissions by a staggering 40 percent by 2100 and bring large health gains.

In addition to natural disasters and increased trauma for the poor, climate change will have devastating effects on the economy. “This is the single biggest economic effect that climate change will have – it's going to affect human productivity. We might be able to develop a strain of wheat that can survive at higher temps, but humans simply cannot,” Smith said. Of the worldwide working population, 60 percent work outdoors, he noted. If measures aren't taken now to mitigate climate change, there will eventually be places where people simply cannot work outside.

Smith's main message – as well as that of the IPCC – is that measures must be taken now to protect ourselves and our planet. “Human response can change the outcome.”

Smith's lecture was sponsored by CEU's Department of Environmental Sciences and Policy and the Center for Climate Change and Sustainable Energy Policy (C3SEP). For further information, visit: http://www.ceu.hu/event/2014-05-05/public-lecture-professor-kirk-smith-university-california-berkeley and http://ehs.sph.berkeley.edu/krsmith/Presentations/2014/CEU.pdf.

- See more at: http://www.ceu.hu/article/2014-05-09/measures-must-be-taken-now-mitigate-climate-change-smith-says#sthash.W1PclNOV.dpuf