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Environ Health Perspect. 2006 Oct;114(10):1626-9.

Supplementing the traditional institutional review board with an environmental health and community review board.

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Institute of Neurotoxicology and Neurological Disorders, Seattle, Washington 98115, USA.



Community-based research often involves additional ethical, legal, and social considerations beyond those of the specific individuals involved in the study. The traditional institutional review board (IRB) typically focuses on protecting the rights and ensuring the safety of the individuals involved. For projects involving community members, IRBs should be more sensitive to issues related to the broader community concerns.


The objective of this article is to discuss the concept of community-based participatory research and the shortcomings of the traditional IRBs in dealing with ethical issues associated with broader community concerns such as implications for family members, neighborhood groups, and local businesses. I examine the rationale and benefits for expanding the roles and responsibilities of review boards related to community-based issues.


I propose the development of environmental health and community review boards (EHCRBs) that combine the fundamental responsibilities and ethical concept of the traditional review boards with an expanded ethical construct of dignity, veracity, sustainability, and justice, with an added emphasis on community.


Only by acknowledging the needs of and working with the community can we ensure ethically based and socially responsible research. An EHCRB will allow researchers and community members to more fully address their mutual interest in conducting scientific, ethical, and socially responsible research.

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