Environmental Health: Issues, Conundrums, Solutions

The summer research collaborative I propose with Biology Professor Barbara Stebbins-Boaz falls under the broad rubric of Environmental Health. Environmental Health is both a discipline and a social movement.

It is focused on myriad intersections between nonhuman and human organisms, and between natural and social systems. It is concerned with the air we breathe, the water we drink, the soil upon which we grow crops, the food we consume, and the products we use on our bodies and in our homes. Questions of concern to people working in environmental health and the overarching questions guiding this LARC summer research project include:

  • What are toxins and contaminants? Where do they come from and where do we find them in our daily lives?
  • What quantities of toxins are permitted in our air, water, soil, food, personal care products and household cleansers?
  • Who decides on these limits and upon what criteria are such standards based?
  • What tradeoffs are being made—to protect industry encourage growth, create jobs—and at what costs to individual and community health and well being?
  • What are short- and long-term health effects of human exposure to specific contaminants?
  • How is exposure to environmental toxins distributed in society? What groups are more vulnerable and why?
  • How do environmental health priorities, regulations, and standard practices differ cross nationally, and what might we learn from the experiences of others?
  • What are the promises and drawbacks of new policies, technologies, and efforts to clean our environment and lessen the burden of toxic chemicals in our bodies?

Students chosen for this research community will develop their own individual projects in collaboration with the faculty mentors. They will participate with faculty in: basic research methods and ethics training; site visits to relevant agencies, organizations and businesses; library and internet research; and group discussions with clinicians, legislators and advocacy organizations working in environmental health. The combined results of the summer research will provide preliminary material and baseline data to help develop future curricular and extracurricular programs in environmental health for Willamette University and its wider community.

For additional information, please see Barbara Stebbins-Boaz’s description.

Willamette University

Liberal Arts Research Collaborative

900 State Street
Salem Oregon 97301 U.S.A.

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