PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] Although Americans are becoming increasingly aware of toxic chemical exposure from everyday household products like bisphenol A in some baby bottles and lead in some toys, women do not readily connect typical household products with personal chemical exposure and related adverse health effects, according to research from the December issue of the Journal of Health and Social Behavior. Brown University sociologist Phil Brown is a co-author of the study.
"People more readily equate pollution with large-scale contamination and environmental disasters, yet the products and activities that form the backdrop to our everyday lives electronics, cleaners, beauty products, food packaging are a significant source of daily personal chemical exposure that accumulates over time," said sociologist Rebecca Gasior Altman, lead author of the study, "Pollution Comes Home and Gets Personal: Women's Experience of Household Chemical Exposure." Altman received a Ph.D. from Brown in 2008.
Altman and the team examined how women interpreted and reacted to information about chemical contamination in their homes and bodies. After reviewing their personal chemical exposure data, most women were surprised and puzzled at the number of contaminants detected. They initially had difficulty relating the chemical results for their homes, located in rural and suburban communities, with their images of environmental problems, which they associated with toxic contamination originating outside the home from military or industrial activities, accidents or dumping.
"This work underscores the value of having sociologists collaborate with life scientists to examine the personal experience of environmental problems," said Brown. "While there has been a rapid rise in bio-monitoring and household exposure assessment, we're lacking social science data on how people respond to research that involves their homes and bodies. Our findings
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