Tracey J. Woodruff, PhD, MPH


I have always loved math, science and solutions, which made engineering seem like a perfect fit with my passion and interest. I attended UC Berkeley in the 1980s as an electrical engineering and computer science major, and there was still something infectious about the role that Berkeley played in democracy and free speech – I was inspired. At that time, many jobs for engineers was in some way working with the Defense Industry, which did not fit with my desire for a career dedicated to the public health. Therefore, I tried bioengineering in graduate school – which was closer. However, it was not until a friend told me about public health and I started to go to the classes that I found my passion. Moreover, with the advice of a mentor in graduate school, I changed my focus to impacts of environmental pollution and chemicals on health.

Through advice of a colleague, I accepted a postdoc with the Institute of Health Policy Studies (because Phil Lee was the director at the time). But I wanted to be where science and policy met on a global scale – and to serve the public – so I picked up my small number of belongings and my future husband and departed on Christmas Eve (with a stop in Grace Land) for a job at USEPA after my IHPS postdoc. I spent 13 fun, impactful, absorbing years there, as a scientist and policy advisor, publishing studies on effects of air pollution on health and environmental justice and contributing to guidance and policy on industrial chemicals and pollution.  However, even with that background, I was naïve about environmental toxics. It never occurred to me when I was a young mother that the plastics in bottles was leaching chemicals into my kid’s warm milk, or that the dust from our furniture was contaminated with chemicals.

The research that I have undertaken while at UCSF has really opened my eyes to the burden of chemicals that are created in our modern world, and how these invisible exposures are many and are adversely influencing health. The increasing trends in childhood disease, including ADHD, autism, certain cancers, obesity and diabetes and the role of industrial chemicals were where I wanted to focus.

My background at the EPA makes me acutely aware of how policies and standards play out over our whole society. Most people think that the industrial chemicals used in all our products have oversight – but that is not true, and the Pandora’s Box of chemical production and use has been wide open for a very long time. This is why I work – to do the science to identify the harmful exposures and inform decision makers for prevention and improved health.



  • Embedding environmental health within healthcare. In 2013, for the first time, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, in collaboration with my program, published a scientific/committee opinion confirming that toxic environmental pollution is affecting reproductive health and that we need timely action to identify and reduce such exposure. The opinion and the 2015 summit, which corresponded with its release, can be viewed on PRHE’s website on the ACOG & ASRM Opinion page. In part based on this work – UCSF is one of the first medical schools to embed environmental health in the medical student curriculum.
    • This led the our co-authored scientific statement by the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO) on reproductive health impacts of exposure to toxic environmental chemicals. FIGO is the leading global voice of reproductive health professionals and its actions have profound resonance. FIGO’s Member Societies include 125 countries/territories, and this policy statement on environmental health was groundbreaking. The opinion and the 2015 summit, which corresponded with its release, can be viewed on PRHE’s website on the FIGO Opinion & Summit page.
  • Changing the field of environmental health science. I led the development and implementation of a new and improved method to evaluate environmental health science – foundational to making evidence-based decisions. The methods, called the Navigation Guide systematic review methodology, is a more rigorous and consistent evaluation of the science that produces a bottom line summary of the evidence to shorten the time from research to action. It is based on best practices of systematic reviews in clinical medicine and adapted to environmental health.  Developed in 2009, it has since been endorsed and applied by the National Academy of Sciences, the World Health Organization (WHO) and demonstrated in multiple proof-of-concept case studies.

Leading to changes to improve health

  • Our Navigation Guide review finding that PBDE flame retardants exposure during pregnancy leads to decreased IQ in children, our research showing that pregnant women in Northern California are all exposed to these flame retardants, and our testimony, were pivotal in San Francisco’s 2019 adoption of the Flame Retardant Chemicals in Upholstered Furniture and Juvenile Products Ordinance. Which bans the sale of all flame-retardant chemicals in upholstered furniture in the city, including online sales. A written version of the testimony, and photos of testimony by PRHE Drs. Singla and Zlatnik testifying, is on the PRHE’s website on the Chemical Policy page.
  • In 2020, California will ban the sale of the pesticide chlorpyrifos. Which is linked to brain damage and other health defects in children. We worked to develop some of the underlying evidence used by California’s Scientific Review Panel on Toxic Air Contaminants in their review.
  • The Toxic Substances Control Act, and law passed by Congress in 1976 and implemented by Environmental Protection Agency’s, was so flawed that it could not even restrict asbestos. In 2016, and updated law was passed and signed into law– the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act. We have been actively participating in how science is used in the implementation of the statute and is actively ongoing. In particular, we have been commenting on the proposed approaches for collecting, evaluating, and interpreting scientific evidence on chemicals approved, as the current proposals do not reflect current scientific practice nor standards approved by respected systematic reviewing organizations. PRHE is commenting and recommending for up to date methods for evaluating hazards and risks of industrial chemicals. As of 2020, we have submitted over 40 public comments regarding TSCA highlighting methodological challenges, disproportionate impacts on vulnerable populations such as workers, children, and those living in poverty, and regulatory gaps. PDF versions of most comments submitted from 2014 to present are on PRHE’s website on the Chemical Policy page.
  • In 2018, we held a legislative briefing “Is the New Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Working as Congress Intended?” in partnership with The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), which was attended by 95 people including Congressional and agency staff, media and NGOs. The briefing explored EPA’s progress on TSCA implementation and important new mandates under the revised law; the latest science on assessing risks to vulnerable populations including pregnant women, workers, and communities of color; and the implications of current EPA proposals for public health. A summary of the 2018 legislative briefing is on PRHE’s blog.
  • In 2018 we published a paper ‘Examining Joint Effects of Air Pollution Exposure and Social Determinants of Health in Defining "At-Risk" Populations Under the Clean Air Act.’ The Clean Air Act creates a duty to protect at-risk groups, so the regulatory assessment of at-risk populations has both policy and scientific foundations. Due to physiological changes, pregnant women can be at greater risk of adverse effects of air pollution and should be considered an at-risk population. We reviewed 11 studies of over 1.3 million pregnant women to characterize the relationship between ozone or PM exposure and Hypertensive Disorder. Our conclusion may impact the allowable concentrations of air pollution in areas where pregnant women may be exposed. The paper can be viewed on PubMed.
  • In 2017, we held a legislative briefing “What the Science Says: How EPA Matters to Children’s Health,” in partnership with the Children’s Environmental Health Network, which was attended by over 90 people including Congressional staff, EPA, media and NGOs. The briefing explored the latest science on how environmental protections (air, water, chemicals) affect children’s health; reviewed current policy proposals related to the EPA and what they mean for scientific research and children’s future health and development; and examined the benefits and costs of EPA regulations and programs that have been targeted for removal. Leading scientists presented compelling data on how environmental protections affect children’s health. A summary of the 2017 legislative briefing is on PRHE’s blog.
  • In 2013 we supported EHP's Proposal to Adopt the ARRIVE Guidelines. The ARRIVE (Animal Research: Reporting of In Vivo Experiments) guidelines were developed in 2010 to improve the reporting of research using animals – maximizing information published and minimizing unnecessary studies. Through peer-reviewed publications, we garnered support for more journals to adopt the ARRIVE Guidelines. 


  • Publish in professional journals to create actionable evidence, which may be used in policy crafting
    • I have co-authored over 150 publications in peer-reviewed journals
  • Join committees, boards, and panels to develop consensus and keep conversations centered on evidence and health impacts 2019 UC Herbicide Task Force - Members responsible for providing review, guidance and recommendations on glyphosate-based herbicides and other pesticides, including long-term approaches to their use. Dr. Woodruff was selected via the University of California Academic Senate.
    • 2012 Appointed by governor of California in to the Science Advisory Board of the Developmental and Reproductive Toxicant (DART) Identification Committee. DART is empowered by Proposition 65, passed by the voters, to identify chemical and pollutants that are known by the State of California to be reproductive and/or developmental toxicants.
    • 2007 -2020 Associate Editor and member of Advisory Board, Environmental Health Perspectives (Environmental Health Perspectives is one of the top journals in Environmental Health and Public Health Sciences)
  • Work with government entities to ensure evidence is accessible and understandable
  • Memberships and service to professional organizations
    • 1998 – present International Society for Environmental Epidemiology
    • 2019 – present Executive Committee Member for the North American Chapter
    • 2008 - present Society of Toxicology
    • 2012 – present American Public Health Association
    • 2013 - present The Endocrine Society
    • 2014 - present Environmental Health Perspective
    • 2015 - present Collegium Ramazzini (this is an elected society with limited membership)
  • Serve as an expert witness for legislative bodies
    • 2005 Canadian Government Gave expert advice for children’s environmental health indicators
  • Contribute to public discourse – I have been quoted and appeared in numerous newspaper, radio and TV interviews – including on Dr. Sanjay Gupta documentary on CNN, Nick Kristof article in the NY Times.
  • Mentor the next generation of scientists, educators and researchers
    • I mentored over 50 trainees, physicians and academics at various points along their academic career, including undergraduate and graduate students and postdocs. My mentees have successful academic, government and nonprofit careers. I have served as primary mentor and secondary mentor of numerous training fellowships and have successfully mentored K99/R00 awardees. I have mentored several postdocs in first-time successful NIEHS K99 applications. I initiated a PRHE Postdoctoral Training Program to train and mentor PRHE postdocs in career and scientific development.

Resources and Links

Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment

Government Policy Links