International Development, Community, and Environment


Participatory research strategies in nuclear risk management for native communities

Document Type

Book Chapter


In the early 1990’s, a number of community activists and minority researchers began a national movement to combat documented practices of environmental racism that were widespread throughout the United States. Several important studies (UCC, 1987; Bullard and Wright, 1993; Brown, 1994; Bryant and Mohai, 1992) demonstrated that racially diverse populations had a considerably higher proportion of hazardous facilities sited in their neighborhoods than predominately white communities. In addition, these community populations feared the lack of adequate public health protection from environmental contamination, ranging from toxic chemicals, lead poisoning, air pollution, nuclear contamination and a number of other environmental health threats. Unethical and inequitable research practices were highlighted in the relationships between community members and scientific researchers (Russell, 1992; CDC, 1994). Community members were increasingly frustrated by risk assessments, health assessments and epidemiological studies, usually conducted by corporate facilities, federal or state health agencies. In a 1993 published report titled Inconclusive By Design; the authors reported environmental health research inadequacies such as; inadequate contact with populations being studied; reliance upon testing techniques entirely inappropriate to types of exposures involved; reliance upon statistical methods which are entirely unsuited to the small and mobile populations residing around waste sites; contracting with researchers who are known to be biased against finding any connection between toxic pollution and disease; and studying the wrong types of illnesses, e.g. focusing on death studies instead of disease studies (i.e. respiratory illnesses or reproductive problems).

Publication Title

Community Research in Environmental Health: Studies in Science, Advocacy and Ethics

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