John L. Loeb and Frances Lehman Loeb Professor of Environmental Epidemiology
Chair, Department of Environmental Health
Douglas W. Dockery has been studying the exposures and health effects of fine particulate air pollution for almost 40 years. In 1988, he became Principal Investigator of Respiratory Health Effects of Respirable Particles and Sulfur Oxides, commonly called the Harvard Six Cities Study. That study examined the health effects of air pollution exposures in populations who have been followed for over thirty-five years. He examined the growth of lung function in children, the decline in adults, and the environmental risk factors affecting these trajectories. In 1993 his team showed that life expectancy was strongly associated with community particulate air pollution levels; that study remains the single most frequently cited paper in the air pollution literature. His studies were pioneering in identifying particulate air pollution as a trigger for acute cardiovascular events. His work has been instrumental in the designation of health-based air pollution standards for fine particulate air pollution by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the World Health Organization. The U.S. Office of Management and Budget has reported that these fine particle air pollution standards have the largest benefit, and the largest benefit-to-cost ratio, of any and all regulations by the U.S. government.
Dr. Dockery’s current research is evaluating the effectiveness of environmental controls in improving health, including evaluations of the effect of coal bans on mortality in Ireland, effects of reduced fine particle concentrations on life expectancy in the United States, and the effect of workplace smoking bans on myocardial infarctions in adults and asthma in children. He is currently leading a consortium of investigators to measure the health benefits achieved though the improvements in air quality in Mexico City over the last two decades.
Dr. Dockery received a BS in physics from the University of Maryland, an MS in meteorology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and both an MS and an ScD in environmental health from Harvard School of Public Health. In 1987 he was appointed assistant professor of environmental science and physiology at HSPH and, in 1990, he was promoted to associate professor of environmental epidemiology. He was again promoted to professor in 1998, and in 2005 became chair of the Department of Environmental Health. In 2008 Dr. Dockery was appointed Director of the Harvard-NIEHS Center for Environmental Health Sciences, which provides core support for environmental health researchers at the School, Harvard University, and the Harvard Affiliated Hospitals. He is the recipient of numerous awards, including the First Annual John Goldsmith Award from the International Society for Environmental Epidemiology in 1999 for “sustained and outstanding contributions to the knowledge and practice of environmental epidemiology.”