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Distinguished Expert Available to Discuss the Health Effects of Air Pollution

Released: 2/24/2014 8:00 AM EST
Source Newsroom: American Thoracic Society (ATS)
Contact Information

Available for logged-in reporters only

Professor John R. Balmes, MD, chair of the American Thoracic Society’s Environmental Health Policy Committee, is available to discuss the adverse health effects of air pollution.

“The scientific evidence linking exposure to air pollution with serious adverse health effects is extensive,” says Dr. Balmes. “These ill effects include impaired pulmonary function, asthma exacerbations, increased hospital and emergency room visits, and increased mortality among individuals with preexisting cardiopulmonary disease.”

“Given the current political climate in which the EPA feels itself under siege and in which conservative voices are attacking the very credibility of decades of air pollution health effects research, it is imperative that scientists speak out about what the data show, that despite the great strides that have been made to improve air quality, children and adults with pre-existing conditions like asthma and heart disease are still being made sick by exposures to air pollution in our country.”

Dr. Balmes is Professor of Medicine in the Division of Occupational and Environmental Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine; Professor of Environmental Health Sciences at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Public Health; Director of the University of California’s Center for Occupational and Environmental Health (COEH) and a member of the California Air Resources Board.

Dr. Balmes' laboratory, the Human Exposure Laboratory (HEL), has been studying the respiratory and cardiovascular health effects of various air pollutants for 30 years. Recently, the HEL has been focusing on the acute effects of ozone, secondhand tobacco smoke, and wood smoke. Research published by the HEL includes:

Balmes JR, Fine JM, Sheppard D. Symptomatic bronchoconstriction after short-term inhalation of sulfur dioxide. Am Rev Respir Dis 1987; 136:1117-1121.
Aris R, Christian D, Hearne PQ, Kerr K, Finkbeiner WE, Balmes JR. Ozone-induced airway inflammation in human subjects as determined by airway lavage and biopsy. Am Rev Respir Dis 1993; 148:1363-1372.
Scannell C, Chen LL, Aris RM, Tager I, Christian D, Ferrando R, Welch B, Kelly T, Balmes JR. Greater ozone-induced inflammatory responses in subjects with asthma. Am J Respir Crit Care Med 1996; 154:24-29.
Solomon C, Christian DL, Welch BS, Kleinman MT, Dunham E, Erle DJ, Balmes JR. Effects of multi-day exposure to nitrogen dioxide on airway inflammation. Eur Respir J 2000; 15:922-928.
Chen LL, Tager IB, Peden DB, Christian DL, Ferrando RE, Welch BS, Balmes JR. Effect of ozone exposure on airway responses to inhaled allergen in asthmatic subjects. Chest 2004; 125:2328-2335.
Chen C, Arjomandi M, Qin H, Balmes J, Tager I, Holland N. Cytogenetic damage in buccal epithelia and peripheral lymphocytes of young, healthy individuals exposed to ozone. Mutagenesis 2006;21:131-137.
Chen C, Arjomandi M, Balmes J, Tager I, Holland N. Effects of chronic and acute ozone exposure on lipid peroxidation and antioxidant capacity in healthy young adults. Environ Health Perspect 2007;115:1732-1737.

Dr. Balmes is also collaborating on several epidemiological projects, including the Children's Health and Air Pollution Study (CHAPS), which aims to determine relationships between air pollution and children’s health, and a longitudinal study of the Chronic Respiratory Effects of Early Childhood Exposure to Respirable Particulate Matter (CRECER) which is examining the effects of biomass smoke exposure on chronic respiratory health of ~500 young children in rural Guatemala. Recently published epidemiological research includes:

Tager IB, Balmes J, Lurmann F, Ngo L, Alcorn S, Kunzli N. Effect of chronic exposure to ambient ozone on lung function in young adults. Epidemiology 2005;16:751-759.
Mortimer KM, Neugebauer R, Lurmann F, Balmes JR, Tager IB. The effect of prenatal and lifetime exposure to air pollution on the pulmonary function of asthmatic children. Epidemiology 2008;19:550-557. discussion 561-562.
Meng YY, Rull RP, Wilhelm M, Lombardi C, Balmes J, Ritz B. Outdoor air pollution and uncontrolled asthma in the San Joaquin Valley, California. J Epidemiol Community Health 2010;64:142-147.
Mann JK, Balmes JR, Bruckner TA, Mortimer KM, Margolis HG, Pratt B, Hammond SK, Lurmann FW, Tager IB. Short-term effects of air pollution on wheeze in asthmatic children in Fresno, California. Environ Health Perspect 2010;118:1497-1502.
Nadeau K, McDonald-Hyman C, Noth EM, Pratt B, Hammond SK, Balmes J, Tager I. Ambient air pollution impairs regulatory T-cell function in asthma. J Allergy Clin Immunol 2010;126:845-852.
Gale SL, Noth EM, Mann J, Balmes J, Hammond SK, Tager IB. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon exposure and wheeze in a cohort of children with asthma in Fresno, CA. J Expo Sci Environ Epidemiol 2012;22:386-392.
Nishimura KK, Galanter JM, Roth LA, Oh SS, Thakur N, Nguyen EA, Thyne S, Farber HJ, Serebrisky D, Kumar R, Brigino-Buenaventura E, Davis A, Lenoir MA, Meade K, Rodriguez-Cintron W, Avila PC, Borrell LN, Bibbins-Domingo K, Rodriguez-Santana JR, Sen S, Lurmann F, Balmes JR, Burchard E. Early life air pollution and asthma risk in minority children: The GALA II and SAGE II Studies. Am J Respir Crit Care Med 2013;188:309-318.

Dr. 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. He joined the faculty at the School of Public Health at UC Berkeley in 2002 where he is Professor of Environmental Health Sciences.

Among the many honors Dr. Balmes has received are the Clean Air Award from the American Lung Association of California and the Carl Moyer Award for Scientific Leadership and Technical Excellence from the Coalition for Clean Air.

Dr. Balmes has been interviewed by:

New York Times
Los Angeles Times
San Francisco Chronicle
USA Today
Fresno Bee
NPR
National NBC TV
Air America
KGO radio
KCBS radio
KQED radio
San Joaquin Valley public radio
KUTV
Local SF Bay Area ABC TV
Local SF Bay Area CBS TV

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