Thomas McKone, who joined Berkeley Lab in 1995, is a world-renowned expert in the field of exposure science, a field that he helped develop. His research investigates how humans interact with their environment and become receptors for potentially harmful chemicals. Over a three decade career, his work has shaped national policy about reducing and preventing human exposure to toxic chemicals in the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the soil we build and play on, saving lives and avoiding disease.
With a Ph.D. in Nuclear Engineering from UCLA, McKone got his start in the field when he found significant human exposures via shower water for a number of common contaminants. That research changed the process for regulating contaminants in drinking water – first in California, then the U.S., and throughout the world.
McKone is best known for CalTOX, a model released in 1993, and first used by the California Environmental Protection Agency to conduct risk assessments for hazardous waste and air pollutants. CalTOX remains in wide use and served as a prototype for USEtox, a model McKone codeveloped for national and international use that was selected by the U.S. EPA and European Commission to evaluate Life Cycle Toxicity Impacts.
The impact of his work has been broad, spanning from research to protect farmworker populations in the Salinas Valley from chemical exposures in their homes to guiding development of military actions to protect U.S. troops from airborne warfare agents and toxins.
“McKone is a path breaker in modern environmental health sciences,” wrote Berkeley Lab Senior Faculty Scientist Ashok Gadgil in a supporting letter. “His research has touched and advanced a number of fields.”