John Libbey Eurotext

Environnement, Risques & Santé


Conceptual models in environmental health and ethics for informing subjects about test results: A case study Volume 12, issue 3, Mai-Juin 2013

Université Claude-Bernard - Lyon 1 École normale supérieure de Lyon Laboratoire « sciences, société, historicité, éducation, pratiques » EA 4148 38, bd Niels Bohr 69100 Villeurbanne France

Different approaches to environmental-health research can use a variety of conceptual models. This paper presents, refines and illustrates the hypothesis that different conceptual models are linked to a range of contrasted ethical postures. Qualitative observation of an international and interdisciplinary research project about the interactions between mercury contamination in rivers, Chagas disease, and the agricultural practices of small-scale farming populations in the tropical Amazon basin of Brazil made this case study possible. The ethical debate about how to inform subjects about their Chagas disease serology results is recounted and set in the context of a distinction between “ecohealth” (or an ecosystemic approach to health) and “ecoepidemiological” approaches. Contrasting these models and underlying the consequences of their overlap, the author underlines the ethical and epistemological importance of critical distance in planning and analysing research strategies.