The Hormesis Case

Kevin C. Elliott

in Is a Little Pollution Good for You?

Published in print January 2011 | ISBN: 9780199755622
Published online January 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199827121 | DOI:
The Hormesis Case

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This chapter examines the history of hormesis research as an important case study of the ways in which methodological and interpretive judgments enter scientific practice. It organizes these choices into four major categories. First, judgments pervade the choice of research projects and the design of studies. One of the important questions in this regard is what kinds of studies to prioritize, given the limited funding available to examine the low‐dose effects of toxicants. Second, crucial decisions are involved in developing scientific language. The hormesis case study (as well as the multiple chemical sensitivity and endocrine disruption cases examined in Chapter 7) provides vivid examples of how the choice of scientific terms and categories can subtly influence policy discussions. Third, judgments play a crucial role in the interpretation and evaluation of studies. This third category of methodological choices is especially important to understand in the hormesis case, because it is largely responsible for the disagreements between proponents and opponents of claims about the generalizability and regulatory implications of hormesis. Fourth, there are important decisions to make about how to apply research results in the context of formulating public policy. For example, efforts to apply hormesis to regulatory policy must come to grips with difficult questions about how to balance potentially beneficial and harmful effects of toxic chemicals.

Keywords: hormesis; history; value judgments; toxicology; low‐dose; chemical regulation; public policy; scientific language

Chapter.  15403 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Philosophy of Science

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