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Environ Sociol. 2017;3(2):107-121. doi: 10.1080/23251042.2016.1220848. Epub 2016 Nov 7.

The Socio-Exposome: Advancing Exposure Science and Environmental Justice in a Post-Genomic Era.

Author information

1
Department of Sociology & Anthropology and Department of Health Sciences, Northeastern University, 360 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA, 02115.
2
Social Science Environmental Health Research Institute, Northeastern University, 360 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA, 02115.
3
Department of Sociology, Brandeis University, Waltham MA 02254.

Abstract

We propose the socio-exposome as a conceptual framework for integrative environmental health research. Environmental scientists coined the term "exposome" with the goal of inventorying and quantifying environmental exposures as precisely as scientists measure genes and gene expression. To date, the exposome's proponents have not thoroughly engaged social scientific theoretical and methodological expertise, although the exclusion of sociological expertise risks molecularizing complex social phenomena and limiting the possibility of collective action to improve environmental conditions. As a corrective, and to demonstrate how "omic" technologies could be made more relevant to public health, our socio-exposome framework blends insights from sociological and public health research with insights from environmental justice scholarship and activism. We argue that environmental health science requires more comprehensive data on more and different kinds of environmental exposures, but also must consider the socio-political conditions and inequalities that allow hazards to continue unchecked. We propose a multidimensional framework oriented around three axes: individual, local, and global, and suggest some sociomarkers and data sources that could identify exposures at each level. This framework could also guide policy, by creating a predictive framework that helps communities understand the repercussions of corporate and regulatory practices for public health and social justice.

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