Deborah Bennett, PhD

Air particles
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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.



Phone: (530) 754-8282 

Social media: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube

Positions at UC Davis

Professor, Public Health Sciences, UC Davis Medical School

Professor, Center for Health and the Environment

Areas of expertise

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

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.

Major research papers

Hertz-Picciotto I et al. 2018. A prospective study of environmental exposures and early biomarkers in autism spectrum disorder: Design, protocols and preliminary data from the MARBLES Study. Environ Health Perspectives Nov;126(11):117004. doi: 10.1289/EHP535.

Moschet C. et al. 2018. Household dust as a repository of chemical accumulation: New insights from a comprehensive high-resolution mass spectrometric study. Environmental Science & Technology Mar 6;52(5):2878-2887.

Philippat, C et al. 2018. Prenatal exposure to organophosphate pesticides and risk of autism spectrum disorders and other non-typical development at 3 years in a high-risk cohort. International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health, Apr;221(3):548-555.

Shin HM et al. 2017. Model framework for integrating multiple exposure pathways to chemicals in household cleaning products. Indoor Air Jul;27(4):829-839.

Wu XM et al. 2015. Serum concentrations of perfluorinated compounds (PFC) among selected populations of children and adults in California. Environmental Research Jan;136:264-73.

Shin HM et al. 2015. Risk-based high-throughput chemical screening and prioritization using exposure models and in vitro bioactivity assays. Environmental Science & Technology Jun 2;49(11):6760-71.

Trunnelle KJ et al. 2014. Urinary pyrethroid and chlorpyrifos metabolite concentrations in Northern California families and their relationship to indoor residential insecticide levels, part of the Study of Use of Products and Exposure Related Behavior (SUPERB). Environmental Science & Technology 48(3):1931-9.

Shin HM et al. 2014. Tracking contributions to human body burden of environmental chemicals by correlating environmental measurements with biomarkers. PLoS One. Mar 28;9(3):e93678.

Eastman C et al. 2013. Acute pulmonary function change associated with work on large dairies in California. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. 2013, Jan;55(1):74-9.

Shin HM et al. 2012. Intake fraction for the indoor environment: A tool for prioritizing indoor chemical sources. Environmental Science & Technology Sep 18;46(18):10063-72.

Wu X et al. 2011. Volatile organic compounds in small- and medium-sized commercial buildings in california. Environmental Science & Technology. Oct 15;45(20):9075-83.

Dodson RE et al. 2007. Measured and modeled personal exposures to and risks from volatile organic compounds. Environmental Science & Technology. Dec 15;41(24):8498-505.

Loh MM et al. 2006. Measured concentrations of VOC’s in non-residential microenvironments in the United States. Environmental Science & Technology. Nov 15;40(22):6903-11.

Bennett DH et al. 2004. A fugacity-based indoor residential pesticide fate model. Environmental Science & Technology. Apr 1;38(7):2142-52.

Bennett DH. 2002. McKone TE, Evans JS, Nazaroff WW, Margni MD, Jolliet O. Defining intake fraction. Environmental Science & Technology May 1;36(9):207A-211A.

Bennett DH et al. 1999. General formulation of characteristic time for persistent chemicals in a multimedia environment.  Environmental Science & Technology 33, 3, 503-509.

Bennett DH. 1998. General formulation of characteristic travel distance for semi-volatile organic chemicals in a multi-media environment. Environmental Science & Technology. 1998, 32, 24, 4023-4030.


  • EPA Charter Science Advisory Board Member (2017, 2018)
  • ISEA Early Career Award (2002)
  • EPA STAR Fellow (1997, 1998, 1999)

Video archive


Small and medium commercial buildings: Ventilation, indoor air quality, and energy use, Air Resources Board Research Seminars, University of California, Davis, April 6, 2011


  • 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)