Smith Awarded Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement

Photo: Kirk SmithKirk Smith

UC Berkeley press release

Veteran COEH Professor Kirk Smith, whose groundbreaking work has documented the dangers of household air pollution, has been named one of two winners of the 2012 Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement. The Tyler Prize is given to those who “confer great benefit upon humankind through environmental restoration and achievement,” and is regarded as the premiere award for environmental science, environmental health, and energy.

A professor of global environmental health at the UC Berkeley School of Public Health, Smith is recognized for his work identifying that household air pollution in developing nations is responsible for nearly two million premature deaths per year, disproportionately among women and children.

“We now understand the deadly effects of these fuels that are used by nearly half the world,” said Smith. “The impact of household air pollution is on scale with any other major health risk in developing countries, including exposure to HIV, mosquitoes, or dirty water.”

In addition to recognizing the impact of this cooking and heating practice on health, Smith’s work has also led to the recognition of the role it plays in climate change. He realized the potential major co-benefits for both health and climate from improvements in household energy technologies in poor countries. This has led to increased support to get improved stoves out to developing countries.

Throughout his career, Smith has advised major international organizations, such as the World Health Organization, and his research, including the first measurements of the global warming impacts of stoves, is routinely cited by other scientists. His research on the health and climate effects from indoor cooking with solid fuels contributed to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports that helped earn the organization a 2007 Nobel Peace Prize, shared with former Vice President Al Gore. In 2009 he received the Heinz Award for Environmental Achievement. He is also a member of the National Academy of Sciences.

The only previous Tyler laureate from UC Berkeley was Bruce Ames in 1985, originator of the Ames Test. A professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and a Senior Scientist at Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute, he is famous for inventing a laboratory assay to test for potential carcinogens. The Tyler Prize, established in 1973 and administered by the University of Southern California, is named for the prize’s founders, John and Alice Tyler.

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