Article ID: CBB889673816

What is the environment in environmental health research? Perspectives from the ethics of science (2021)


Environmental health research produces scientific knowledge about environmental hazards crucial for public health and environmental justice movements that seek to prevent or reduce exposure to these hazards. The environment in environmental health research is conceptualized as the range of possible social, biological, chemical, and/or physical hazards or risks to human health, some of which merit study due to factors such as their probability and severity, the feasibility of their remediation, and injustice in their distribution. This paper explores the ethics of identifying the relevant environment for environmental health research, as judgments involved in defining an environmental hazard or risk, judgments of that hazard or risk's probability, severity, and/or injustice, as well as the feasibility of its remediation, all ought to appeal to non-epistemic as well as epistemic values. I illustrate by discussing the case of environmental lead, a housing-related hazard that remains unjustly distributed by race and class and is particularly dangerous to children. Examining a controversy in environmental health research ethics where researchers tested multiple levels of lead abatement in lead-contaminated households, I argue that the broader perspective on the ethics of environmental health research provided in the first part of this paper may have helped prevent this controversy.

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Authors & Contributors
Saikku, Mikko
Myllyntaus, Timo
Lehtinen, Ari Aukusti
Björn, Ismo
Luukkanen, Olavi
Mitman, Gregg A.
Bulletin of the History of Medicine
Social Studies of Science
Science, Technology and Human Values
Comparative Studies in Society and History
Studies in History and Philosophy of Science
Ethics, Place and Environment
Ohio University Press
Harvard University Press
University of Nebraska Press
Rutgers University Press
Greenwood Press
Oxford University Press
Nature and its relationship to culture; human-nature relationships
Environmental sciences
Environmental history
Public health
Olmsted. Frederick Law
Rauch, John H.
Time Periods
20th century
19th century
20th century, late
21st century
18th century
20th century, early
United States
Great Britain
North America
Western states (U.S.)
Atlantic world
Yellowstone National Park

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