Dr. Deborah Bennett, PhD

Deborah Bennett

Position Title
Co-Director, Exposure, Environmental Health Sciences Center


Deborah Bennett, PhD is an exposure scientist whose research both measures and models chemicals in dust, air and consumer products.

Dr. Bennett studies volatile and semi-volatile organic compounds (VOCs and SVOCs) like plasticizers, electronics, cosmetics, flame retardants, pesticides and particulate matter. Working closely with epidemiologists and toxicologists, she researches how chemicals make their way into the body and set off biological reactions that lead to certain diseases and conditions, from asthma to autism.

One of the first scientists to measure VOCs in non-residential spaces like restaurants and stores, Dr. Bennett’s pioneering work has led to a much clearer understanding of the risk of exposure to certain chemicals and how they move through different environments.

She introduced the idea of characteristic travel distance to explain how far chemicals travel outdoors, as well as characteristic time to show how they linger both outdoors and indoors. She also came up with a metric called intake fraction to calculate how much of a chemical released into the environment a person inhales, ingests or absorbs through their skin.

Fearless in her hunt for potentially harmful chemical compounds, Dr. Bennett loves studying the elusive ones we know so little about.

Dr. Bennett is a member of Project TENDR (Targeting Environmental Neuro-Developmental Risks), a unique collaboration of scientists, health professionals and children’s and environmental advocates. She also sits on the Environmental Protection Agency’s Charter Science Advisory Board, as well as the Synthetic Turf Advisory Panel for the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment.

Happy to share her experience with up-and-coming scientists, Dr. Bennet also volunteers as an academic counselor for the California chapter of the International Society of Exposure Science.

Social Media

Positions at UC Davis

Areas of Expertise

  • Air pollution
  • Consumer product exposure
  • Indoor environments
  • Pesticides
  • Semi-volatile organic compounds
  • Volatile organic compounds

Major Research Papers

R. Gill, Q. Wang, S. Takaku-Pugh, E. Lytle, M. Wang, D.H. Bennett, J. Park, M. Petreas, Trends in flame retardant levels in upholstered furniture and children's consumer products after regulatory action in California, Chemosphere, Volume 351, 2024, 141152, ISSN 0045 6535, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chemosphere.2024.141152

Jeong Weon Choi, Jiwon Oh, Deborah H. Bennett, Antonia M. Calafat, Rebecca J. Schmidt, Hyeong-Moo Shin, Prenatal exposure to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances and child behavioral problems, Environmental Research, 2024, 118511, ISSN 0013-9351, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envres.2024.118511

Amanda J. Goodrich, Michael J. Kleeman, Daniel J. Tancredi, Yunin J. Ludeña, Deborah H. Bennett, Irva Hertz-Picciotto, Rebecca J. Schmidt, Ultrafine particulate matter exposure during second year of life, but not before, associated with increased risk of autism spectrum disorder in BKMR mixtures model of multiple air pollutants, Environmental Research, Volume 242,
2024, 117624, ISSN 0013-9351,

Jonathan V. Lewis, Emily A. Knapp, Shivani Bakre, Aisha S. Dickerson, Theresa M. Bastain, Casper Bendixsen, Deborah H. Bennett, Carlos A. Camargo, Andrea E. Cassidy-Bushrow, Elena Colicino, Viren D’Sa, Dana Dabelea, Sean Deoni, Anne L. Dunlop, Amy J. Elliott, Shohreh F. Farzan, Assiamira Ferrara, Rebecca C. Fry, Tina Hartert, Caitlin G. Howe, Linda G. Kahn, Margaret R. Karagas, Teng-Fei Ma, Daphne Koinis-Mitchell, Debra MacKenzie, Luis E. Maldonado, Francheska M. Merced-Nieves, Jenae M. Neiderhiser, Anne E. Nigra, Zhongzheng Niu, Sara S. Nozadi, Zorimar Rivera-Núñez, Thomas G. O'Connor, Sarah Osmundson, Amy M. Padula, Alicia K. Peterson, Allison R. Sherris, Anne Starling, Jennifer K. Straughen, Rosalind J. Wright, Qi Zhao, Amii M. Kress, Associations between area-level arsenic exposure and adverse birth outcomes: An Echo-wide cohort analysis, Environmental Research, Volume 236, Part 2, 2023, 116772, ISSN 0013-9351, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envres.2023.116772

Sarah E. Maylott, Elisabeth Conradt, Monica McGrath, Emily A. Knapp, Xiuhong Li, Rashelle Musci, Judy Aschner, Lyndsay A. Avalos, Lisa A. Croen, Sean Deoni, Karen Derefinko, Amy Elliott, Julie A. Hofheimer, Leslie D. Leve, Juliette C. Madan, Maxwell Mansolf, Liza B. Murrison, Jenae M. Neiderhiser, Sally Ozonoff, Jonathan Posner, Amy Salisbury, Sheela Sathyanarayana, Julie B. Schweitzer, Carl Seashore, Meagan E. Stabler, Leslie W. Young, Steven J. Ondersma, Barry Lester, P.B. Smith, K.L. Newby, L.P. Jacobson, C.B. Parker, R. Gershon, D. Cella, F.P. Perera, J.B. Herbstman, M.R. Karagas, J. Ganiban, A. Ferrara, L.A. Croen, N. Paneth, J.M. Kerver, D.M. Ruden, S. Deoni, V.A. D’Sa, C. Blair, J.M. Neiderhiser, K.Z. LeWinn, N.R. Bush, D. Dabelea, M. O'Shea, R. Fry, L.D. Leve, A. Mason, J.B. Stanford, A. Giardino, C.A. Porucznik, C. Karr, S. Sathyanarayana, J. Gern, A.J. Elliott, I. Hertz-Picciotto, J.B. Schweitzer, D. Bennett, Latent Class Analysis of Prenatal Substance Exposure and Child Behavioral Outcomes, The Journal of Pediatrics, Volume 260, 2023, 113468, ISSN 0022-3476,

Education and Degree(s)
  • PhD, Mechanical Engineering, University of California, Berkeley, 1999
  • MS, Mechanical Engineering, University of California, Berkeley, 1996
  • BS, Mechanical Engineering, University of California, Los Angeles, 1993
Honors and Awards
  • EPA Charter Science Advisory Board Member (2017, 2018)
  • ISEA Early Career Award (2002)
  • EPA STAR Fellow (1997, 1998, 1999)