UCSF PEHSU: Our Team


John R. Balmes

Dr. John R. Balmes received his M.D. 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 and Division Chief of Occupational and Environmental Medicine at San Francisco General Hospital (SFGH). He joined the faculty at the School of Public Health at UC Berkeley in 2002. His major academic activities include his research laboratory, several collaborative epidemiological research projects, various advisory and editorial committees, and direction of the COEH since 2000.

Dr. Balmes' laboratory, the Human Exposure Laboratory (HEL), has been studying the respiratory and cardiovascular health effects of various air pollutants for over 25 years. Recently, the HEL has been focusing on the acute effects of ozone, secondhand tobacco smoke, and wood smoke. 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 asthmatic subjects recruit macrophages to the airways with consecutive day exposures, and d) exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke causes endothelial dysfunction. The lab is currently studying the impact of a genetic polymorphism of the antioxidant enzyme, Glutathione-S-transferase M1, on the susceptibility of asthmatic subjects to the combined effects of an allergen and ozone. We are also studying the relationship of acute airway inflammatory responses to acute cardiovascular responses after both ozone and secondhand tobacco smoke.

Dr. Balmes is also collaborating on several epidemiological projects. One such project is called the Children's Health Air Pollution Study (CHAPS). The overall specific aim of CHAPS is to determine relationships between air pollution and children’s health, including birth defects, pre-term birth, asthma, immune function, obesity, and glucose dysregulation. A second project Chronic Respiratory Effects of Early Childhood Exposure to Respirable Particulate Matter (CRECER) involves longitudinal study of the effects of biomass smoke exposure on chronic respiratory health of ~500 young children in rural Guatemala. A third line of research involves the effects of arsenic in drinking water on lung health Chile. Yet another project, involves the effect of chronic exposure to hydrogen sulfide on asthma and lung function in Rotorua, New Zealand (http://ehs.sph.berkeley.edu/cheers).