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Genetics and Environmental Law: Redefining Public Health

Jamie A. Grodsky
California Law Review
Vol. 93, No. 1 (Jan., 2005), pp. 171-270
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3481391
Page Count: 100
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Genetics and Environmental Law: Redefining Public Health
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Abstract

The sequencing of the human genome and introduction of high-speed gene expression profiling technologies are revolutionizing our understanding of the interplay of genes and the environment. This Article develops a novel and provocative framework for thinking about the implications of the genetic revolution for the U.S. environmental regulatory system. Professor Grodsky employs the concept of "public health" as a lens for analyzing emerging issues, and demonstrates how scientific advances may erode the distinction between public and individual health. Future claims of genetically susceptible individuals and groups may challenge the legal definition of the "public" to be protected by environmental law. Likewise, the Article demonstrates how the meaning of "health," and legally significant threats to health, may be questioned as new techniques reveal earlier evidence of toxic harm. These developments strike at the core of the Environmental Protection Agency's public health mission. The Article analyzes and synthesizes diverse elements of the changing scientific landscape, providing a new framework for understanding the science as well as the law. Professor Grodsky examines implications for environmental standard setting, as these potentially beneficial, enormously complex, and increasingly controversial scientific developments may modify estimates of individual and public health risk attributable to toxic exposure. The Article also sounds a cautionary note. It evaluates scientific roadblocks that must be overcome if the new science is to benefit law and regulation rather than generate scientific uncertainty. This new, exciting, and potentially perilous terrain in environmental law has only begun to be perceived by policymakers.

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