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Environmental Health Policies–How Societies Decide What to do About Problems Unearthed by Epidemiologists and Exposure Scientists

doi: 10.1097/01.ede.0000339542.49751.8c
Abstracts: ISEE 20th Annual Conference, Pasadena, California, October 12–16, 2008: Plenary Sessions

Monday Plenary, October 13, 2008

Abstracts published in Epidemiology have been reviewed by the organizations of Epidemiology. Affliate Societies at whose meetings the abstracts have been accepted for presentation. These abstracts have not undergone review by the Editorial Board of Epidemiology.


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Environmental epidemiologists and exposure scientists tend to assume that excessive exposures that occur to only a small proportion of the population are not as important as exposures that are widespread. They follow the utilitarian principle of the “most good for the most people at the least cost”. Yet most citizens support the “duty ethics” rule that the majority has the duty to protect the minority from unfair exposures regardless of cost. Such clashes of ethical worldview and stakeholder interest have no technical solution and ultimately require a political solution.

This plenary examined how environmental epidemiologists and exposure scientists can influence who will be the local and global “winners and losers” by packaging information in an informative and philosophically neutral way to increase the chance of comprehensiveness in the ultimate policy discussions. It looked at environmental exposure and health problems around the world; how ethical frameworks and methods, such as cost benefit analysis, influence the policy discussion; and how to assure that relevant stakeholders are at the table as these problems are prioritized and solutions chosen.


Raymond Neutra, MD, DrPH, Chief emeritus, Division of Environmental & Occupational Disease Control, California State Department of Public Health.

© 2008 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.