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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Characterizing arguments about endocrine disruptors and human health Green, Georgia


Scientific controversies surrounding complex questions of societal concern are at times invoked as reasons to delay policy action. Previous research suggests there are different and potentially irreconcilable ways of knowing in the sciences. The aim of the present study is to explore if distinct arguments can a) be detected in scientific literature about endocrine disruptors in relation to human health and, b) are rooted in different perceptions of the types of knowledge considered reliable, relevant, and valuable for informing chemicals risk assessment. The analysis led to the identification of a series of arguments that differed in their starting points, the type of inferences they claim can be drawn from certain evidence, the amount of evidence needed to draw a conclusion and the research questions that ought to be answered. The arguments placed different weights on methods commonly used for evaluating the link between EDs and human health, including mechanistic studies, epidemiological studies and animal studies. The present study suggests that policy relevant debates are happening in ED scientific literature. The findings also indicate that the operation of chemical regulatory systems to some extent dictate the knowledge being produced in the literature because findings are being developed with policy applications in mind, although this could be a pragmatic approach for scientists to ensure their work is compatible for the existing policy operations.

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