Contested Illnesses and the Environmental Health Movement
The increase in environmentally induced diseases and the loosening of regulation and safety measures have inspired a massive challenge to established ways of looking at health and the environment. Communities with disease clusters, women facing a growing breast cancer incidence rate, and people of color concerned about the asthma epidemic have become critical of biomedical models that emphasize the role of genetic makeup and individual lifestyle practices. Likewise, scientists have lost patience with their colleagues' and government's failure to adequately address environmental health issues and to safeguard research from corporate manipulation.
Focusing specifically on breast cancer, asthma, and Gulf War-related health conditions-"contested illnesses" that have generated intense debate in the medical and political communities-Phil Brown shows how these concerns have launched an environmental health movement that has revolutionized scientific thinking and policy. Before the last three decades of widespread activism regarding toxic exposures, people had little opportunity to get information. Few sympathetic professionals were available, the scientific knowledge base was weak, government agencies were largely unprepared, laypeople were not considered bearers of useful knowledge, and ordinary people lacked their own resources for discovery and action.
Brown argues that organized social movements are crucial in recognizing and acting to combat environmental diseases. His book draws on environmental and medical sociology, environmental justice, environmental health science, and social movement studies to show how citizen-science alliances have fought to overturn dominant epidemiological paradigms. His probing look at the ways scientific findings are made available to the public and the changing nature of policy offers a new perspective on health and the environment and the relationship among people, knowledge, power, and authority.
Environmental activists, wannabe activists, and folks tired of environmental hazards in their communities will find this a worthwhile guide for action.
Toxic Exposures does shed light on the intersection of health research, advocacy and policy-making.
Paul D. Blanc
Timely and important.
A guidebook for those wishing to understand the environmental-health movement.
Toxic Exposures is one of the most important books I have read in a long time.
David Naguib Pellow
The chapter on breast cancer is reason enough to read this book.
[ Toxic Exposures] rightfully belongs on the shelf next to other books on contemporary issues in medicine.
Not just another addition to environmental justice studies but provides substantial contributions to the foundations of environmental justice research.
Foreword by Lois Gibbs
Preface: Toxic Exposures and the Challenge of Environmental Health
List of Abbreviations
1. Citizen-Science Alliances and Health Social Movements: Contested Illnesses and Challenges to the Dominant Epidemiological Paradigm
2. Breast Cancer: A Powerful Movement and a Struggle for Science
3. Asthma, Environmental Factors, and Environmental Justice
4. Gulf War-Related Illnesses and the Hunt for Causation: The "Stress of War" Versus the "Dirty Battlefield"
5. Similarities and Differences Among Asthma, Breast Cancer, and Gulf War Illnesses
6. The New Precautionary Approach: A Public Paradigm in Progress
7. Implications of the Contested Illnesses Perspective
8. Conclusion: The Growing Environmental Health Movement