The political stakes of environmental science are high. Scientists who study the effects of toxic substances in people's workplaces and communities face extreme contention as they forge through a political landscape, which is fraught with worldwide debates.
A relatively new science, environmental health has formed a new paradigm where the experiences, participation, and discussion of laypeople collaborate with scientists to reshape scientific inquiry, pose new questions, offer new techniques, synthesize more areas of knowledge, and demand democratic involvement in research, regulation, and health prevention and treatment.
This issue of The Annals reflects this new "public paradigm" with a diverse group of contributors from a variety of specialties - social movement activists, scientists, government officials, and academic researchers.
The first section of the special issue, "Epidemiology and Science," examines the types of data available in explaining environmental factors of diseases. These articles focus on how to use that data to link environmental factors to illness and how to use what we learn to prevent environmental disease.
The second section, "Social Policy and Social Movements," reviews some historical case studies where activists alerted the country to specific toxic waste hazards, various investigative measures that have been used to uncover hazards and handle environmental disputes, and the responsibilities and roles of activists in shaping social policy.
Concluding with a review article that showcases major contributions of recent books, this issue of The Annals will continue to fan the ongoing debate over environmental health concerns while shedding light on this complex and contemporary area of study.