Gina Solomon


I was inspired in the 1980's by Dr. Helen Caldicott, a pediatrician and founder of Physicians for Social Responsibility. She was a leader in the anti-nuclear movement at the time, and I heard her speak on campus when I was a Sophomore in college. I started my pre-med courses after that, and decided to be a physician-activist for public health and the environment.

 I saw a patient when I was in training. She was pregnant with her first child and worried about chemical exposures at work. She was a laboratory technician and used a new solvent at work. I was shocked to discover that there was no available information about the chemical she handled and its potential effects during pregnancy. Further, there was no law requiring companies to do any testing of chemicals before putting them on the market for widespread use. I spent months researching the effects of that chemical and it is now listed as a known reproductive toxicant and has been banned for most uses. At the time you could buy it at any hardware store as a paint/varnish/graffiti remover. Just a few years ago, the federal law finally changed and  the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has the ability to screen most chemicals before they go on the market.

Impetus & Impacts

One of the things I'm most proud of has been my work evaluating exposures to pollution in many different places. For example, in 2003 I conducted the first study that measured diesel exhaust exposure inside school buses. We discovered that the levels inside were about 4-times higher than outside the bus. In 2008, partly in response to these findings, California put in place new rules to reduce diesel exhaust emissions from school buses.

I also conducted an environmental assessment in New Orleans in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina. We were the first team to document the high-level mold contamination that occurs in flooded homes. In response, multiple agencies issued advisories, distributed personal protective equipment (PPE), and insurers agreed to cover full gutting and rebuild of severely flood damaged homes.

After the Chevron Richmond refinery fire which severely impacted health in the local community in August 2012, I co-authored the Governor's Working Group report with recommendations on improving refinery safety. I worked on the regulations for years, and they were finalized in 2017, enacting all of the key recommendations in the original report to protect communities living near California refineries.



At various times in my career I took different approaches. As a member of the volunteer clinical faculty at UCSF, I have always had other jobs. From 1996-2012 I worked at the Natural Resources Defense Council and did research and advocacy there. A lot of the work involved public communications, including speaking to the media and testifying at legislative hearings.

In 2012 I was appointed by then Governer Brown as Deputy Secretary for Science and Health at the California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA), so I worked hard from within California government.

During the entire time, I have been active on multiple committees of the National Academy of Science, and many of those reports have had significant influence.

Now I am doing research almost full-time, but my focus in on research that has policy relevance. For example, I am currently researching links between air pollution and COVID-19 severity, and the effects of wildfires on drinking water quality.

Direct work with policymakers
Leadership role Past Deputy Secretary for Science and Health at CalEPA, Currently directing the Achieving Resilient Communities (ARC) project at the Public Health Institute

Media engagement- Natural Resources Defense Council - involved public communications, including speaking to the media and testifying at legislative hearings. I teach a biennial workshop for UCSF residents on risk communication and communicating with the media.
Participate in a policy-related academic center
Participation in professional associations and advisory bodies Served on multiple committees of the National Academy of Science, whose reports have significant influence, as well as advisory committees to the US Environmental Protection Agency, World Health Organization, National Toxicology Program, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and State of California.
Provided public testimony to legislators and regulators- Invited to testify three times before the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, and twice before the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce. I have testified multiple times before committees of the California Senate and Assembly. I have participated in dozens of regulatory hearings, advocating for improved public health protections for vulnerable populations and communities.
Public policy research -my research and advocacy is explicitly geared toward policy
Published in professional literature – Over 60 peer reviewed publications, dozens of published abstracts, 14 reports and one book.

(These bolded titles are being developed as modular datapoints- for a later enhancement scheme- bear with us)


The policy process is very slow, so making change requires patience. Living in a democracy means that nothing moves quickly. For example, changing a law often means building a broad coalition and public awareness, educating policymakers, and trying a dozen times (and failing), in order to eventually succeed. Changing regulations involves participating in multiple public workshops and hearings, submitting detailed technical comments on numerous drafts regulatory documents, and making connections with agency staff and leaders; the regulatory process typically can take 3-5 years (or longer!), so patience is definitely required

  • 1996-2012 Senior Scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)
  • 2012-2018 she was appointed by Governor Brown as the Deputy Secretary for Science and Health at the California Environmental Protection Agency
  • 2018-Present Bay Area Air Quality Management District Advisory Council
  • 2014 -2020 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Board of Scientific Counselors,  
  • 2013 – 2019, National Academy of Science (NAS) Board on Environmental Studies and Toxicology
  • 2019 – 2022  Strategy Advisor for the California Breast Cancer Research Program.

Learn More And Links

Q&A: Why California Is Banning Chlorpyrifos, A Widely Used Pesticide. Gina Solomon, US News and World Report, January 23, 2020


Pesticide that could impact children's health is still widely used in many states. Joce Sterman and Alex Brauer, Sinclair Broadcast Group, January 16, 2020. 


Paradise Residents Unsure If Their Water Is Safe. Molly Petersen, KQED, Nov 29, 2019. (Story starts at about 3:27). 


Paradise residents still can’t drink the water, Molly Petersen, KQED, Sept 30, 2019. 


California to block food pesticide that Trump’s EPA saved from nationwide ban, Bob Egelko, San Francisco Chronicle, May 8, 2019


California to ban controversial pesticide blamed for harming child brain development, CBC News, May 8, 2019


California Moves to Ban Chlorpyrifos, Widely Used Pesticide, Brian Melley, Associated Press, May 8, 2019


After the fire: Blazes pose hidden threat to the West's drinking water, Kaitlin Sullivan, NBC News, Jan 5, 2019


In California, Houses Burned. So Did the Toxic Chemicals They Contained. Sarah Maslin Nir, New York Times, Nov 29, 2018