Kirk R. Smith

Kirk R. Smith

Title
Professor of Global Environmental Health
Department
School of Public Health
Phone
(510) 643-0793
Fax
(510) 642-5815
Research Expertise and Interest
climate change, public health, air pollution, environmental health science, global health, household energy
Research Description

Professor of Global Environmental Health, University of California Berkeley and Director of the Collaborative Clean Air Policy Center Delhi, a new institution involving three major Indian universities and UC Berkeley. He has worked in China since 1981 and India since 1978 and is currently conducting fieldwork in Mongolia and India.  He is most known for his work on the scale of exposures and the resulting health impacts of air pollution from simple household cookfires, which Prof Smith pioneered with colleagues in India in the early 1980s and has continued since with fields studies India, Nepal, China, Laos, Mexico, Guatemala, Mongolia, Paraguay, and elsewhere.  This risk is now recognized to cause as much or more ill-health as any other environmental risk factor globally partly through being a major contributor to outdoor air pollution.  He has developed monitoring devices of several aspects of air pollution exposure in resource-poor settings and pioneered several fundamental concepts in global environmental health including the environmental risk transition and, what is now called, intake fraction.

He has written some 400 journal articles and other publications and been granted honorary professorships in universities in India, China, and Mongolia. He shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize as a member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and was co-chair of the health chapter of the most recent, IPCC Fifth Assessment.   He is an elected member of the US National Academy of Sciences and was awarded the Heinz Prize in Environment and the Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement. 

In the News

June 27, 2016

To improve Beijing’s air quality, cut household fuel use too

China’s plans to curb Beijing’s health-damaging air pollution by focusing on restricting emissions from power plants and vehicles may have limited impact if household use of coal and other dirty fuels is not also curtailed, according to a new study.

November 10, 2011

Wood smoke from cooking fires linked to pneumonia, cognitive impacts

UC Berkeley-led researchers have found a dramatic one-third reduction in severe pneumonia diagnoses among children in homes with smoke-reducing chimneys on their cookstoves. Reducing wood smoke could have a major impact on the burden of pneumonia, the leading cause of child mortality in the world, the researchers said. A separate pilot study also found a link between prenatal maternal exposure to woodsmoke and poorer performance in markers for IQ among school-aged children.

In the News

June 27, 2016

To improve Beijing’s air quality, cut household fuel use too

China’s plans to curb Beijing’s health-damaging air pollution by focusing on restricting emissions from power plants and vehicles may have limited impact if household use of coal and other dirty fuels is not also curtailed, according to a new study.

November 10, 2011

Wood smoke from cooking fires linked to pneumonia, cognitive impacts

UC Berkeley-led researchers have found a dramatic one-third reduction in severe pneumonia diagnoses among children in homes with smoke-reducing chimneys on their cookstoves. Reducing wood smoke could have a major impact on the burden of pneumonia, the leading cause of child mortality in the world, the researchers said. A separate pilot study also found a link between prenatal maternal exposure to woodsmoke and poorer performance in markers for IQ among school-aged children.

Featured in the Media

Please note: The views and opinions expressed in these articles are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or positions of UC Berkeley.
December 19, 2018
Katrina Yu
Following China's efforts to convert the fuel source for 4 million homes from coal to natural gas, the average person's exposure to the most dangerous particles of air pollution dropped 47 percent, according to a new study co-authored by Berkeley and Tsinghua University researchers. The researchers also calculated that that the pollution reductions could help prevent 400,000 premature deaths a year. "Household air pollution has a bigger effect on health, because emissions from households are right next to the people and the impact in terms of exposure is higher," says public health professor Kirk Smith, a global environmental health expert and one of the study's co-authors. "The pollution starts in the kitchen, but it soon goes outdoors. So when you improve the household fuel situation by swapping to cleaner fuels you help villagers directly, but you also progress in reducing outdoor air pollution."
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