Toxic Exposures: Contested Illnesses and the Environmental Health Movement / Edition 1

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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.

Columbia University Press

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Editorial Reviews

Nature - Paul D. Blanc

Toxic Exposures does shed light on the intersection of health research, advocacy and policy-making.

Science - Peder Anker

Timely and important.

Times Literary Supplement - Sandra Steingraber

A guidebook for those wishing to understand the environmental-health movement.

Mobilization - David Naguib Pellow

Toxic Exposures is one of the most important books I have read in a long time.

Breast Cancer Action Newsletter - Jill Chapin

The chapter on breast cancer is reason enough to read this book.

Journal of the American Medical Association - Russ Lopez

[Toxic Exposures] rightfully belongs on the shelf next to other books on contemporary issues in medicine.

Toxic Exposures does shed light on the intersection of health research, advocacy and policy-making.

— Paul D. Blanc

Timely and important.

— Peder Anker

Times Literary Supplement
A guidebook for those wishing to understand the environmental-health movement.

— Sandra Steingraber

Toxic Exposures is one of the most important books I have read in a long time.

— David Naguib Pellow

Journal of the American Medical Association
[ Toxic Exposures] rightfully belongs on the shelf next to other books on contemporary issues in medicine.

— Russ Lopez

Nature and Culture

Not just another addition to environmental justice studies but provides substantial contributions to the foundations of environmental justice research.

Library Journal

This is a study of environmental diseases and how to combat threats to public health that arise when controls are not in place. Brown (sociology & environmental studies, Brown Univ.; No Safe Place: Toxic Waste, Leukemia, and Community Action) focuses on three "contested illnesses" whose origins are widely debated-breast cancer, asthma, and Gulf War syndrome-examining the relationships among them, their causes, and the prevalent paradigms of science, politics, perceptions of risk, and public awareness. He shows how community actions with organized coalitions of citizens, scientists, policymakers, and responsible businesses can challenge the status quo and bring about significant changes in the reporting of scientific data, the way research is conducted, and law and regulation. He further explains how to organize and empower concerned citizens to form protest movements that get results and backs these measures up with accounts of success stories in communities around the country. Environmental activists, wannabe activists, and folks tired of environmental hazards in their communities will find this a worthwhile guide for action.
—Irwin Weintraub

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780231129480
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press
  • Publication date: 6/22/2007
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 392
  • Sales rank: 1,309,584
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Phil Brown is a professor of Environmental Studies at Brown University. He directs the Community Outreach Core of Brown's Superfund Basic Research Program and the Ethical and Social Implications component of Brown's National Science Foundation NIRT project in nanotechnology. His book No Safe Place: Toxic Waste, Leukemia, and Community Action (co-authored with Edwin J. Mikkelsen, Univ of California Pr, Hardcover (1990), Paperback (1997): $21.95) was very successful. It was reviewed in The New York Times Book Review, The Boston Globe, Science, Harvard Law Review, Social Science & Medicine, Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law, Contemporary Sociology, and New England Journal of Medicine, among others. In the spring of 2002 we published Phil Brown's In the Catskills: A Century of the Jewish Experience in 'The Mountains,' which has sold 2,321 copies so far.

Columbia University Press

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Table of Contents

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

Columbia University Press

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