Advertisement

Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences

, Volume 6, Issue 3, pp 556–568 | Cite as

Scientific contestations over “toxic trespass”: health and regulatory implications of chemical biomonitoring

  • Bhavna ShamasunderEmail author
  • Rachel Morello-Frosch
Article

Abstract

Biomonitoring has chronicled hundreds of synthetic chemicals in human bodies. With the proliferation of biomonitoring studies from diverse stakeholders comes the need to better understand the public health consequences of synthetic chemical exposures. Fundamental disagreements among scientific experts as to the nature and purpose of biomonitoring data guide our investigation in this paper. We examine interpretations of biomonitoring evidence through interviews with 42 expert scientists from industry, environmental health and justice movement organizations (EHJM), academia, and regulatory agencies and through participant observation in scientific meetings where biomonitoring evidence is under debate. Both social movements and industry stakeholders frame the meaning of scientific data in ways that advance their own interests. EHJM scientists argue that biomonitoring data demonstrates involuntary “toxic trespass” and underscores a policy failure that allows for the pervasive use of untested chemicals. Industry scientists seek to subsume biomonitoring data under existing regulatory risk assessment paradigms. Our analysis reveals one area of convergence (validity of Centers for Disease Control surveillance data) and seven areas of contestation regarding the scientific, public health, and policy implications of biomonitoring evidence, among regulatory, industry, and EHJM scientists including: chemical presence in bodies, biological mechanisms of health impact, use of biomonitoring equivalents, limits of targeted biomonitoring, limits of detection, policy influence of advocacy biomonitoring, and relevance of biomonitoring to motivate policy change. These areas of scientific contestation provide insight into the persistent challenges of regulating chemicals even in the midst of mounting evidence of widespread exposure to multiple compounds with implications for human health.

Keywords

Biomonitoring Contestation Chemicals Toxics Expertise Regulatory science 

Notes

Acknowledgments

This research was supported by the National Science Foundation Award [# 0822724], a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, and this work was supported by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (R01ES017514). Thank you to Dr. Phil Brown and the Social Science Environmental Health Research Institute at Northeastern University for valuable feedback on the manuscript.

References

  1. 3M (2014) 3M’s phase out and new technologies. http://solutions.3m.com/wps/portal/3M/en_US/PFOS/PFOA/Information/phase-out-technologies/. Accessed 27 Jul 2010
  2. Adams C, Brown P, Morello-Frosch R et al (2011) Disentangling the exposure experience the roles of community context and report-back of environmental exposure data. J Health Soc Behav 52:180–196. doi: 10.1177/0022146510395593 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. American Chemistry Council (2014) Biomonitoring Equivalents: a valuable scientific tool for making better chemical safety decisions. http://blog.americanchemistry.com/2014/07/biomonitoring-equivalents-a-valuable-scientific-tool-for-making-better-chemical-safety-decisions/. Accessed 4 Sep 2014
  4. Aylward LL, Green E, Porta M et al (2014) Population variation in biomonitoring data for persistent organic pollutants (POPs): an examination of multiple population-based datasets for application to Australian pooled biomonitoring data. Environ Int 68:127–138. doi: 10.1016/j.envint.2014.03.026 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bahadori T, Phillips RD, Money CD et al (2007) Making sense of human biomonitoring data: findings and recommendations of a workshop. J Expo Sci Environ Epidemiol 17:308–313. doi: 10.1038/sj.jes.7500581 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Beck U (1992) Risk society: towards a new modernity. SAGEGoogle Scholar
  7. Becker M, Edwards S, Massey RI (2010) Toxic chemicals in toys and children’s products: limitations of current responses and recommendations for government and industry. Environ Sci Technol 44:7986–7991. doi: 10.1021/es1009407 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Benford RD, Snow DA (2000) Framing processes and social movements: an overview and assessment. Annu Rev Sociol 26:611–639. doi: 10.1146/annurev.soc.26.1.611 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Birnbaum LS, Jung P (2011) From endocrine disruptors to nanomaterials: advancing our understanding of environmental health to protect public health. Health Aff (Millwood) 30:814–822. doi: 10.1377/hlthaff.2010.1225 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Brody JG, Morello-Frosch R, Brown P et al (2007a) Is it safe?: New ethics for reporting personal exposures to environmental chemicals. Am J Public Health 97:1547–1554. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2006.094813 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Brody JG, Morello-Frosch R, Brown P et al (2007b) Improving disclosure and consent. Am J Public Health 97:1547–1554. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2006.094813 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Brown P (2013) Toxic exposures: contested illnesses and the environmental health movement. Columbia University PressGoogle Scholar
  13. Brown P, Zavestoski S (2004) Social movements in health: an introduction. Sociol Health Illn 26:679–694. doi: 10.1111/j.0141-9889.2004.00413.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Calafat AM, Ye X, Wong L-Y et al (2008) Exposure of the U.S. population to bisphenol a and 4-tertiary-octylphenol: 2003-2004. Environ Health Perspect 116:39–44. doi: 10.1289/ehp.10753 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. CDC (2013) Fourth report on human exposure to environmental chemicals. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, AtlantaGoogle Scholar
  16. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC (2013) Blood lead levels in children aged 1–5 years, United States, 1999–2010. Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 63:245–248Google Scholar
  17. Corburn J (2007) Community knowledge in environmental health science: co-producing policy expertise. Environ Sci Pol 10:150–161. doi: 10.1016/j.envsci.2006.09.004 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Cranor CF (2011) Legally poisoned: how the law puts us at risk from toxicants. Harvard University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  19. Dhillon S, Kostrzewski A (2006) Clinical pharmacokinetics, first. Pharmaceutical Press, United KingdomGoogle Scholar
  20. Egeghy PP, Judson R, Gangwal S et al (2012) The exposure data landscape for manufactured chemicals. Sci Total Environ 414:159–166. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2011.10.046 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Environmental Working Group (2005) Body burden: the pollution in newbornsGoogle Scholar
  22. Fei C, McLaughlin JK, Tarone RE, Olsen J (2008) Fetal growth indicators and perfluorinated chemicals: a study in the Danish National Birth Cohort. Am J Epidemiol 168:66–72. doi: 10.1093/aje/kwn095 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. U.S. Government Accountability Office (2009) Biomonitoring: EPA needs to coordinate its research strategy and clarify its authority to obtain biomonitoring data. http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-09-353. Accessed 17 Sep 2014
  24. Harley KG, Chevrier J, Aguilar Schall R et al (2011) Association of prenatal exposure to polybrominated diphenyl ethers and infant birth weight. Am J Epidemiol 174:885–892. doi: 10.1093/aje/kwr212 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Hays SM, Aylward LL, LaKind JS et al (2008) Guidelines for the derivation of biomonitoring equivalents: report from the biomonitoring equivalents expert workshop. Regul Toxicol Pharmacol RTP 51:S4–15. doi: 10.1016/j.yrtph.2008.05.004 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Jackson R, Locke P, Pirkle J et al (2002) Will biomonitoring change how we regulate toxic chemicals? J Law Med Ethics 30:177–183Google Scholar
  27. Jasanoff S (1987) Contested boundaries in policy-relevant science. Soc Stud Sci 17:195–230CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Jasanoff S (1990) American exceptionalism and the political acknowledgment of risk. Daedalus 119:61–81Google Scholar
  29. Jasanoff S (1993) Procedural choices in regulatory science. Risk Issues Health Saf 4:143Google Scholar
  30. Jasanoff S (1999) The songlines of risk. Environ Values 8:135–152CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Jasanoff S (2009) The fifth branch: science advisers as policymakers. Harvard University PressGoogle Scholar
  32. Judson R, Richard A, Dix DJ et al (2009) The toxicity data landscape for environmental chemicals. Environ Health Perspect 117:685–695. doi: 10.1289/ehp.0800168 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Kodavanti PRS, Coburn CG, Moser VC et al (2010) Developmental exposure to a commercial PBDE mixture, DE-71: neurobehavioral, hormonal, and reproductive effects. Toxicol Sci Off J Soc Toxicol 116:297–312. doi: 10.1093/toxsci/kfq105 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Krimsky S (2000) Hormonal chaos: the scientific and social origins of the environmental endocrine hypothesis. Johns Hopkins University Press, BaltimoreGoogle Scholar
  35. LaKind JS, Aylward LL, Brunk C et al (2008) Guidelines for the communication of biomonitoring equivalents: report from the biomonitoring equivalents expert workshop. Regul Toxicol Pharmacol 51:S16–S26. doi: 10.1016/j.yrtph.2008.05.007 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Lautenberg F (2011) Lautenberg introduces “Safe Chemicals Act of 2011.”Google Scholar
  37. MacKendrick NA (2010) Media framing of body burdens: precautionary consumption and the individualization of risk*. Sociol Inq 80:126–149. doi: 10.1111/j.1475-682X.2009.00319.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. McCormick S (2009) Mobilizing science: movements, participation, and the remaking of knowledge. Temple University Press, PhiladelphiaGoogle Scholar
  39. Morello-Frosch R, Brody JG, Brown P et al (2009) Toxic ignorance and right-to-know in biomonitoring results communication: a survey of scientists and study participants. Environ Health 8:6. doi: 10.1186/1476-069X-8-6 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Myers NJ, Raffensperger C (2006) Precautionary tools for reshaping environmental policy. MIT Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  41. Myers JP, Zoeller RT, vom Saal FS (2009) A clash of old and new scientific concepts in toxicity, with important implications for public health. Environ Health Perspect 117(11):1652–1655Google Scholar
  42. Namieśnik J (2000) Trends in environmental analytics and monitoring. Crit Rev Anal Chem 30:221–269. doi: 10.1080/10408340091164243 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. National Center for Environmental Health (2012) Low level lead exposure harms children: a renewed call for primary prevention. Centers for Disease Control and PreventionGoogle Scholar
  44. National Research Council (2008) Phthalates and cumulative risk assessment the task ahead. http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=12528. Accessed 9 Sep 2014
  45. National Research Council (2006) Health risks from dioxin and related compounds: evaluation of the EPA reassessment. The National Academies Press, WashingtonGoogle Scholar
  46. National Research Council (2009) Science and decisions: advancing risk assessment. The National Academies Press, WashingtonGoogle Scholar
  47. Needham LL (2008) Introduction to biomonitoring. J Chem Health Saf 15:5–7. doi: 10.1016/j.jchas.2008.06.002 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Needleman H (2004) Lead poisoning. Annu Rev Med 55:209–222. doi: 10.1146/annurev.med.55.091902.103653 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. O’Brien M (2000) Making better environmental decisions: an alternative to risk assessment, 1st edition. The MIT PressGoogle Scholar
  50. OEHHA (2011) Biomonitoring California workshop understanding and interpreting biomonitoring results. Biomonitoring Calif. Workshop Underst. Interpret. Biomonitoring ResultsGoogle Scholar
  51. Oreskes N, Conway EM (2010) Merchants of doubt: how a handful of scientists obscured the truth on issues from tobacco smoke to global warming. Bloomsbury Publishing USAGoogle Scholar
  52. Ottinger G, Cohen B (2012) Environmentally just transformations of expert cultures: toward the theory and practice of a renewed science and engineering. Environ Justice 5:158–163. doi: 10.1089/env.2010.0032 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Parthasarathy S (2010) Breaking the expertise barrier: understanding activist strategies in science and technology policy domains. Sci Public Policy 37:355–367CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Porta M (2012) Human contamination by environmental chemical pollutants: can we assess it more properly? Prev Med 55:560–562. doi: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2012.09.020 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Porta M, Puigdomènech E, Ballester F et al (2008) Monitoring concentrations of persistent organic pollutants in the general population: the international experience. Environ Int 34:546–561. doi: 10.1016/j.envint.2007.10.004 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Rappaport SM (2011) Implications of the exposome for exposure science. J Expo Sci Environ Epidemiol 21:5–9. doi: 10.1038/jes.2010.50 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Schafer K (2004) Chemical trespass: pesticides in our bodies and corporate accountability. Pesticide Action Network North AmericaGoogle Scholar
  58. Schecter A, Papke O, Tung KC et al (2005) Polybrominated diphenyl ether flame retardants in the U.S. population: current levels, temporal trends, and comparison with dioxins, dibenzofurans, and polychlorinated biphenyls. J Occup Environ Med 47:199–211. doi: 10.1097/01.jom.0000158704.27536.d2 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Schettler T (2006) Human exposure to phthalates via consumer products. Int J Androl 29:134–139. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2605.2005.00567.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Scruggs CE, Ortolano L, Schwarzman MR, Wilson MP (2014) The role of chemical policy in improving supply chain knowledge and product safety. J Environ Stud Sci 4:132–141. doi: 10.1007/s13412-013-0158-4 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Sexton K, Needham L, Pirkle J (2004) Human biomonitoring of environmental chemicals. Am Sci 92:38. doi: 10.1511/2004.1.38 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Snow DA, Rochford EB, Worden SK, Benford RD (1986) Frame alignment processes, micromobilization, and movement participation. Am Sociol Rev 51:464. doi: 10.2307/2095581 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Stein J, Schettler T, Wallinga D, Valenti M (2002) In harm’s way: toxic threats to child development. J Dev Behav Pediatr JDBP 23:S13–22CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Vandenberg LN, Colborn T, Hayes TB et al (2012) Hormones and endocrine-disrupting chemicals: low-dose effects and nonmonotonic dose responses. Endocr Rev 33:378–455. doi: 10.1210/er.2011-1050 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Viñas R, Watson CS (2013) Bisphenol S disrupts estradiol-induced nongenomic signaling in a rat pituitary cell line: effects on cell functions. Environ Health Perspect 121:352–358. doi: 10.1289/ehp.1205826 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Vogel SA (2008) From “the dose makes the poison” to “the timing makes the poison”: conceptualizing risk in the synthetic age. Environ Hist 13:667–673. doi: 10.2307/25473294 Google Scholar
  67. Vogel SA (2009) The politics of plastics: the making and unmaking of bisphenol a ‘safety’. Am J Publ Health 99(S3):S559–S566Google Scholar
  68. Washburn R (2009) Measuring the chemicals within: the social terrain of human biomonitoring in the United States.Google Scholar
  69. Washino N, Saijo Y, Sasaki S et al (2009) Correlations between prenatal exposure to perfluorinated chemicals and reduced fetal growth. Environ Health Perspect 117:660–667. doi: 10.1289/ehp.11681 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Wigley DC, Shrader-Frechette KS (1996) Environmental racism and biased methods of risk assessment. Risk Health Saf Environ 7:55Google Scholar
  71. Wild CP (2012) The exposome: from concept to utility. Int J Epidemiol 41:24–32. doi: 10.1093/ije/dyr236 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Wilson MP, Schwarzman MR (2009) Toward a new U.S. chemicals policy: rebuilding the foundation to advance new science, green chemistry, and environmental health. Environ Health Perspect 117:1202–1209. doi: 10.1289/ehp.0800404 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Woodruff TJ, Burke TA, Zeise L (2011a) The need for better public health decisions on chemicals released into our environment. Health Aff (Millwood) 30:957–967. doi: 10.1377/hlthaff.2011.0194 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Woodruff TJ, Zota AR, Schwartz JM (2011b) Environmental chemicals in pregnant women in the United States: NHANES 2003-2004. Environ Health Perspect 119:878–885. doi: 10.1289/ehp.1002727 CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© AESS 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Urban and Environmental Policy DepartmentOccidental CollegeLos AngelesUSA
  2. 2.Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management & School of Public HealthUniversity of California, BerkeleyBerkeleyUSA

Personalised recommendations