History of COEH

Men holding an Assembly certificate

Learn more about the history of COEH 



Workers become sterile at a pesticide formulation plant 
Male workers are found to be infertile due to their exposure to the agricultural chemical Dibromochloropropane (DBCP). The state finds insufficient institutional mechanisms to prevent occupational injuries and illnesses.


Occupational Health Centers are established by Assembly Bill 3414, Chapter 1245, Statutes of 1978, Kapiloff 
The California Legislature passes a bill mandating that the California Department of Industrial Relations, under the leadership of Director Don Vial, establish Occupational Health Centers in Northern and Southern California under contract with the University of California. UCB Professor Robert Spear is founding director of the Northern Center, which links Berkeley, San Francisco, and Davis.



Clinics are established in San Francisco and Sacramento that treat patients for work-related illness and injuries; survey work sites; provide preventive care for employees; and offer consulting services to employers, physicians, unions, attorneys, and government.


The Centers become a permanent part of the University of California

The Northern California Occupational Health Center (NCOHC) develops teaching, research, and service programs: 

  • Occupational Hygiene (MS, MPH, PhD) 

  • Toxicology (PhD)

  • Occupational Epidemiology (MPH, PhD) 

  • Ergonomics (MS, PhD) 

  • Occupational Medicine Residency at UCSF 

  • Occupational Health Nursing (MS, PhD, joint MS/MPH with UCB) 

  • Continuing Education/Labor Outreach 


NIOSH Education and Research Center (ERC)

NCOHC becomes a regional Education and Research Center (ERC) funded by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). Robert Spear is the founding director.


Superfund Research Program

The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) funds a program to address the effects of pollution at Superfund hazardous waste sites. COEH Professor Martyn T. Smith is founding director of the Berkeley program.


Superfund Hazardous Waste Worker Training Program

NIEHS establishes a nationwide training program to protect workers at hazardous waste sites. COEH Program Director Robin Baker is founding director of the Berkeley component.


Lung Biology Center 

COEH Professor Dean Sheppard of UCSF establishes the first basic research laboratory in the U.S. devoted to lung injury and repair due to chemical and biological agents. 


Center for Occupational and Environmental Health (COEH) 

NCOHC changes its name to COEH to acknowledge the connection between environmental and occupational health.


Western Center for Agricultural Health and Safety

NIOSH establishes regional centers to protect farmers and farmworkers. COEH Professor Marc Schenker is the founding director of the UC Davis research and outreach center. 


Ergonomics Program

COEH Professor David Rempel establishes a joint UCSF/UCB teaching, research, and service program and links to UC Davis as they develop ergonomics research and teaching activities. 


Department of Public Health Sciences

COEH Program Director Marc Schenker is founding chair of a new clinical and basic research department in the School of Medicine at UC Davis. Originally established as Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine.


UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources (DANR)
DANR and COEH establish a partnership under the direction of Cooperative Extension Specialist 

James Meyers. Dr. Meyers establishes AgSafe, a non-profit coalition of individuals and organizations dedicated to reducing injuries, illness, and fatalities in California agriculture.


Agricultural Ergonomics Research Center (AERC)

UC Davis professor John Miles partners with COEH Professor Julia Faucett of UCSF and Specialist James Meyers to establish a research center at Davis to understand and apply ergonomic approaches to agricultural equipment design and work practices that prevent musculoskeletal disorders. Their success prompts the UC Davis Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering to recruit a faculty member in ergonomics.


COEH International Program

COEH Professor Kirk R. Smith
 of UCB is awarded a grant from the Fogarty International Center for COEH's international activities. Allan H. Smith of UCB takes over this grant in 2001.


Health, Environment, and Development (HED) Master's program 

COEH Professor Kirk R. Smith establishes an interdisciplinary master's program at UCB focused on helping developing countries address occupational and environmental health problems.


CHAMACOS (Center for the Health Assessment of Mothers and Children of Salinas)

COEH Professor Brenda Eskenazi of UCB establishes one of eight national centers funded by the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Institute for Environmental Health Science to study children's health. CHAMACOS focuses on pesticide exposure of farmworker children. 


Center of Excellence in Environmental Public Health Tracking
Director John Balmes
 establishes one of three centers funded nationally by the CDC to help state and local health departments establish a nationwide tracking system linking hazardous exposures to disease outcomes that will guide federal health and environmental policies.


MPH Degree program at UC Davis 

Established in the School of Medicine, the first director is Professor Stephen McCurdy. 

Present Day