Routine exposure: social practices and environmental health risks in the home

Palgrave Macmillan
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Social Theory and Health, 2020, 18, (4), pp. 299-316
Issue Date:
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The post-war introduction of new chemicals to consumer products created a range of complex environmental health issues. Despite recent evidence demonstrating the issues associated with using particular chemicals in the home, responses from industry and regulators have failed to account for the complex ways that chemicals interact with each other, humans and microorganisms to cause harm. This paper draws together the scientific and social science literature to make two key contributions: first, it demonstrates why investigating everyday practices will be crucial to improve knowledge of how human/environment interactions in the home are contributing to certain health conditions; second, it draws on examples of Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals to show how these health conditions cannot be addressed by replacing individual products, or chemicals, as many toxic ingredients have become central to the functionality of interdependent networks of products, and the routines they enable. By failing to engage with these issues, future research and planning to establish healthy homes will not be able to account for these crucial sources of harm. We conclude that further research addressing indoor environmental health should expand the boundaries of inquiry across disciplines and knowledge perspectives to analyse how social practices structure micro-scale interactions between humans, microbes and chemicals, in the home.
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