• "[O]ur Old Assumptions about Toxicants and How They Affect Our Bodies Are Being changed ..."
  • September 8, 2010 | Author: David A. Oliver
  • Law Firm: Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease LLP - Houston Office
  • There's a remarkable but necessary admission in this month's Environmental Health Perspectives.  It is that that a new (some would say old) paradigm has emerged; that pathogens, sometimes in concert with what for 40 years have been known as toxicants, are responsible for a very large portion of human suffering. Unable to deny any longer that diseases of nature inflict a staggering toll on humanity the "NIEHS Office of the Director will be working with division leaders to develop an initiative on infectious disease and environmental health—to incorporate infectious disease into the toxicological paradigm."

    The editorial points to "A Niche for Infectious Disease in Environmental Health: Rethinking the Toxicological Paradigm" just published in the same journal. It's a call for the study of infectious diseases in environmental health research. Ultimately it's a recognition that the simple (and simplistic) models of many diseases are collapsing under the weight of modern microbiology. It's an admission that "the complexity of real-world exposures and multifactorial health outcomes" cannot be captured by the simple one-to-one associations that ruled environmental health research for the past four decades.

    Years ago real insight, real genius (at least when it came to environmental illness) was replaced by a sort of blue collar approach to science in which grotesquely simplified statistical data dredges could be automated so that a never ending stream of putative causes of human suffering could be manufactured, studies and regulated. Some of the techniques were so malleable that clever researchers could not only manufacture causes, they could also decide in advance what the causes would be. Now, the real causes are uncovered and it often turns out that our ancient enemies, pathogens, were to blame all along.