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2016 Conference

Abstract Number: ETH-09 | ID: 4818

Ethical and Philosophical Dimensions of Pesticide Exposure Among Children

Colin L Soskolne*, University of Canberra, Australia, colin.soskolne@ualberta.ca;
The most vulnerable in society, such as the fetus and young children, cannot advocate for themselves. Thus, protecting the most vulnerable in society is a first order principle of biomedical ethics. Evidence that can be used to protect such groups becomes ever more important to those advocating in their best interests. Because epidemiologists study diseases where they occur, and high exposure circumstances lend themselves to epidemiological enquiry, epidemiologists will study health effects in communities that are exposed, regardless where in the world they may be situated.
A risk assessment includes both an exposure assessment (including both a hazard and a vulnerability assessment) and a risk evaluation. Sometimes, however, where it is known that exposure pathways exists, there is no need to conduct a risk evaluation because the effects on the fetus and on young children are already known. Would such studies cause more good or more harm? Are some studies helpful more for etiological understanding or for public health action?
There are limitations to the methods of the science that lead to ethical challenges for communicating risks observed because first generation studies require both replication and corroboration of a body of evidence. Because pregnancy is a critical period for impacting the adult life of the fetus, decisions about levels of exposure and thresholds need to be addressed taking ethical implications into consideration. What level of exposure contributes to negative health impacts, and are there consequences for future generations? In pregnancy situations, are there critical developmental windows of exposure that would be more or less impacting on both the mother and the fetus? What biomarkers are valid and reliable for determining such exposure and making informed decisions? Are vulnerable populations accessible for needed intervention?
The ethical dimensions of these considerations will be drawn upon to engage the audience and facilitate discussion.