ECOLOGICAL PUBLIC HEALTH, EPIGENETICS AND EXPOSOME THEORY
Any excerpts reproduced from this page should be cited as follows: Pesticide-Free Cambridge, 'Ecological Public Health, Epigenetics and Exposome Theory', https://www.pesticidefreecambridge.org/epigenetics-exposome-ecological-public-health
Our campaign is informed by Ecological Public Health, epigenetics and exposome research strands that reveal how our synthetically altered environment is changing human and non-human animals at an intergenerational level through epigenetic, genetic and endocrine disruption, and that any healing of the human body needs to go hand in hand with healing of the environment. The exposome model has been described as an ‘integrated science of nurture’ that helps to ‘fulfil the promises of the Human Genome Project’ demonstrates the ‘imbalance in the nature nurture interaction’ and the ‘interactions between our genes and our environment that determine health and disease’. This emphasis on the 'environmental influences and associated biological responses throughout the lifespan, including exposures from the environment, diet, behavior, and endogenous processes' intersects closely with the focus of the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals, as well as related medical initiatives aimed at tackling the health fallout of global environmental and climate change events, Planetary Health, and One Health.
Significantly, the current global pandemic, Covid-19, has been described as having arisen in part from a failure to respond to the message of the Ecological Public Health model and, in particular, entrenched human-environmental imbalances that include the erosion of nature and biodiversity. Moreover, in order to fulfil the aims of a balanced Planetary Health agenda, it is understood that ‘a total rethink of society, the economy, and our stewardship of the natural environment’ is going to be necessary.
Crucially, these approaches have shattered old nature:nurture divisions, by emphasizing the ‘permeability between humans and their environment’ as reflected in the ways that both interact to alter gene and endocrinal behaviour. The western medical view of the self-contained human body impervious to its surroundings is now seen as ‘distressingly porous and vulnerable’ to both the physical and socio-cultural landscape in which humans live.
Both the epigenetic and exposome models have obvious relevance for environmental activism and for bringing ‘green’ agendas into mainstream political activism. This is because they demonstrate most effectively that injury to the environment, of which climate change is but one outcome, can no longer be dismissed as something ‘out there’ that does not impact on human wellbeing unless one is affected directly by extreme weather or environmental events. Conversely, as we alter our environment, so too are our bodies being changed and damaged through endocrinal and epigenetic alteration. Such an understanding is inherent to Pesticide-Free Cambridge’s quest to get toxic pollutants removed from our environment.
Betts, K. 2012. Characterizing Exposomes: Tools for Measuring Personal Environmental Exposures. Environmental Health Perspectives120(4): A158–163.
Buck Louis, G.M. & Sundaram, R. 2012. Exposome: Time for Transformative Research. Statistics in Medicine 31(22): 2569–2575.
DellaValle, C. 2016. The Pollution in People: Cancer-causing Chemicals in Americans’ Bodies. Environmental Working Group Original Research.
Dupré, J. 2016. A Postgenomic Perspective on Sex and Gender. In: Smith, D.L. (ed.). How Biology Shapes Philosophy: New Foundations for Naturalism, pp. 227–246. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Lioy, P. 2015. Exposure Science and its Places in Environmental Health Sciences and Risk Assessment: Why is its Application Still an Ongoing Struggle in 2014? J Expo Sci Environ Epidemiol25(1–3).
Lioy, P. & Rappaport, S. 2011. Exposure Science and the Exposome: An Opportunity for Coherence in the Environmental Health Sciences. Environmental Health Perspectives 119 (11): A466–467.
Miller, G.W. & Jones, D.P. 2014. The Nature of Nurture: Refining the Definition of the Exposome. Toxicological Sciences: An Official Journal of the Society of Toxicology137(1): 1-2.
Morris, G. & Saunders, P. 2017. The Environment in Health and Well-being. Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Environmental Science.
Nash, L. 2006. Inescapable Ecologies: A History of Environment, Disease and Knowledge. Berkeley (CA): California University Press.
Parry, S. & Dupré, J. 2010. Nature after the Genome. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.
Rayner, G. 2020. Covid-19: One Part of An Ecological Public Health Crisis. Discovery Society, 19 April 2020.
Rayner, G. & Lang, T. 2012. Ecological Public Health: Reshaping the Conditions for Good Health. Oxford: Routledge.
Shaw, J. 2018. Environmentalism as Religio-Medical ‘Worldview': New synergies between the Palaeoenvironmental Humanities, Ecological Public Health, and Climate-Change Activism. Current Swedish Archaeology 26: 61-78.
United Nations. 2015. Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development: Resolution Adopted by the General Assembly on 25 September 2015. See in particular, seventieth session, Agenda items 15 and 116.
Watts, N., Adger, N.W., Ayeb-Karlsson, S., et al., 2017. The Lancet Countdown: Tracking Progress on Health and Climate change. The Lancet 389 (10074): 1151–1164.
Whitmee, S., Haines, A., Beyrer, C., et al. 2015. Safeguarding Human Health in the Anthropocene Epoch Report of the Rockefeller Foundation–Lancet Commission on planetary health. The Lancet386: 1973–2028.
Wild, C.P. 2005. Complementing the Genome with an ‘Exposome’: The Outstanding Challenge of Environmental Exposure Measurement in Molecular Epidemiology. Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention14: 1847-1850.
"The singular and self-contained body of the early 20th century came, by the
end of that century to seem distressingly porous and vulnerable to the modern landscape."