Phil Brown

Full Interview (Duration 63:08)

General Contents and Links to Video Segments

Title Duration
Part 1 – Early Career & Woburn Leukemia Clusters 9:06
Part 2 – A New Epidemiological Paradigm 14:00
Part 3 – Advocacy Science vs. Politicized Science 12:12
Part 4 – Precautionary Principle 7:24
Part 5 – Moving Forward 13:00
Part 6 – Five Favorites 13:25
Full Interview 63:08


“Anne Anderson was a complete grass roots activist — no background in science, no background in politics, but just a good-hearted person . . . a quiet, ordinary person who, when motivated by kids’ health issues and the obstacles that government put in her way and the corporate obstacles, became a tiger.”

“We have this old public health paradigm that you’ve got to go upstream to get the causes rather than wait downstream to treat the problem – whether it is an illness or endangered species or something else.”

Specific Contents and Links to Video Segments

Part 1 – Early Career & Woburn Leukemia Clusters (9:06)

  1. From your early work in forensic psychiatry, how did you become interested in environmental health and justice? 0:40
  2. How did Anne Anderson, you, and others get involved studying the cancer clusters in Woburn? 4:40

Part 2 – A New Epidemiological Paradigm (14:00)

  1. How did you come up with the concept of “popular epidemiology”? 8:30
  2. What do you mean by the “public paradigm.” 10:40
  3. What are some of the problems that you’ve identified with the dominant epidemiological paradigm? 13:10
  4. Can you say more about the limitations of the biomedical model? 16:00
  5. Can you highlight the difference between “popular epidemiology” and “critical epidemiology”? 18:10
  6. How would you summarize Sarah Steingraber’s distinction between upstream and downstream approaches to health? 19:50

Part 3 – Advocacy Science vs. Politicized Science (12:12)

  1. What are “advocacy scientists”? 21:20
  2. Is advocacy science bad science? 23:20
  3. What aspect of your work have people found most controversial? 28:00
  4. What about the problem of politicized science? 29:50

Part 4 – Precautionary Principle (7:24)

  1. What is the precautionary principle and what role do you think it should play in our regulatory system? 32:20
  2. What are the origins of the precautionary principle in the U.S.? 36:40

Part 5 – Moving Forward (13:00)

  1. What message do you have for citizens and policymakers? 38:30
  2. What advice do you have for the average consumer for staying healthy and the average citizen for promoting reform? 41:20
  3. What message would you have for commercial enterprises that are producing and selling many of these chemicals? 45:00
  4. Why aren’t corporations moving more rapidly toward green chemistry? 46:30

Part 6 – Five Favorites (13:25)

  1. What mentors had the greatest influence on your work? 50:20
  2. What do you consider to be the best wide-audience book, article, or movie related to your field? 53:30
  3. What do you consider to be the most important academic book or article? 56:20
  4. Which of your scholarly publications would you recommend to viewers? 58:40
  5. Which activist or community organization do you most admire? 60:00
Phil Brown

Phil Brown, Ph.D., Professor of Sociology and Environmental Studies, co-founder of The Committee on Science, Technology Studies, Director of The Contested Illnesses Research Group at Brown University


Dr. Brown has taught at Brown University since 1980. His research includes disputes over environmental causation of illness and social movements in health, which are also the focus of his most recent book, “Toxic Exposures: Contested Illnesses and the Environmental Health Movement.”


Five Favorites

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