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John R. ​Balmes, MD

Professor Emeritus (UCSF), Environmental Health Sciences
  • Director, Northern California Center for Occupational and Environmental Health

John R. Balmes is a Professor Emeritus of Environmental Health Sciences whose research is focused on the respiratory, cardiovascular and metabolic health effects of various air pollutants and occupational agents.
Phone: (510) 220-0502
Available for Advising
Address: 2121 Berkeley Way #5201-2
Berkeley, CA 94720


Dr. John Balmes is a Professor Emeritus of Environmental Health Sciences at the University of California, Berkeley School of Public Health. He received his MD degree from Mount Sinai School of Medicine in 1976. After internal medicine training at Mount Sinai and pulmonary subspecialty, occupational medicine, and research training at Yale, he joined the faculty of USC in 1982. He joined the faculty at UCSF in 1986 and is currently Professor Emeritus in the Divisions of Occupational and Environmental Medicine and Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital (ZSFG). His major academic activities include several collaborative epidemiological research projects, various advisory and editorial committees, and clinical duties at ZSFG.

Dr. Balmes directed the UCSF Human Exposure Laboratory (HEL), has been studying the respiratory health effects of various air pollutants for approximately 30 years. The HEL was the first group to demonstrate a) histological evidence of ozone-induced airway injury and inflammation in human subjects, b) that asthmatic subjects have greater inflammatory responses to ozone than normal subjects, c) that ozone-induced inflammatory responses in normal subjects attenuate with short-term exposures on consecutive days in the lung, and d) that asthmatic subjects recruit macrophages to the airways with consecutive day exposures. The lab also studied acute cardiovascular responses after both ozone and secondhand tobacco smoke.

Dr. Balmes also collaborates on several epidemiological projects that are run out of the UC Berkeley School of Public Health. One such project is called the Children’s Health and Air Pollution Study (CHAPS). The overall specific goal of CHAPS is to assess the impact of air pollution on the health of children living in the San Joaquin Valley, including adverse effects on immune and metabolic function. He also collaborates on studies of the effects of biomass smoke exposure on the respiratory health of children as well as respiratory and cardiovascular health of adults in rural Guatemala, Malawi, Rwanda, and Nepal.

Research Interests

  • Effects of exposure to outdoor air pollution on respiratory and cardiovascular health, immune and glucose dysregulation, and obesity in children and adults
  • Effects of exposure to household air pollution (from combustion of biomass fuels for domestic cooking) on respiratory and cardiovascular health in children and adults
  • Effects of early-life exposure to pesticides on respiratory health later in the life course
  • Effects of arsenic in drinking water on respiratory health
  • Interactive health effects of exposures to air pollution and psychosocial stress


  • Pulmonary Medicine – Yale University, 1981
  • MD – CUNY Mt. Sinai Medical School, 1976
  • BA – University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1972


Courses Taught

    • PH 270
    • Introduction to Environmental Health Sciences
    • PH 292 (002)
    • EHS MPH Career Pathways seminar
    • PH 292 (003)
    • EHS MPH Capstone seminar
    • PH 290 (002)
    • Global Air Quality and Health

Additional Links

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