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Contested Illnesses Research Group
Brown University , Providence RI

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Rebecca Gasior Altman

Since earning her PhD in Sociology from Brown University in 2008, Rebecca has served as a lecturer in the Community Health Program at Tufts University, where she and her upper level seminar students consider the relationship between communities and global environmental health issues. In 2010, she joined the Board of the Science and Environmental Health Network, one of the preeminent organizations considering the role of cutting edge science and precautionary thinking in environmental and public health policy.

When not teaching, she divides her time between two books: the first, which is geared toward younger children, reflects on the value and hopefulness of primary prevention; the second documents her pilgrimage along the path traveled by persistent pollutants from factory to the Arctic, where along the way, she explored the role of community involvement in biomonitoring and the legacy of persistent pollutants on place. Her work has looked at the legacy of PCBs on Alaska Native communities in northwestern Alaska and the unfolding legacy of PFOA (and the family of so called nonstick chemicals) in the MidOhio Valley region of Appalachia—both regions where blood levels of these persistent pollutants exceed what has been found by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in a representative sample of Americans.

Her research and teaching interests include a focus on the global fate and transport of pollutants and Arctic contaminants, children’s environmental health, chemical policy reform, biomonitoring, and the rise in green/ecological medicine.

She participated in Brown University’s Contested Illnesses Research Group between 2002-2008, where she collaborated on various projects, most notably, the NIEHS funded project, “Linking Environmental Justice and Breast Cancer Activism”— with Phil Brown, Rachel Morello-Frosch, The Silent Spring Institute, and Communities for a Better Environment.

While at Brown, she attended the Wildbranch Writing Workshop sponsored by Orion Magazine, where she studied environmental health writing with Dr. Sandra Steingraber. She also served on the American Sociological Association Task Force for Institutionalizing Public Sociology, where she helped the Task Force document how sociologists conduct research in the public interest and develop revised tenure and promotion standards that would encourage and reward sociologists’ future public work.

Selected Publications: “Pollution Comes Home and Gets Personal: Cape Cod Women’s Experiences of Household Toxic Exposure.” 2008. Rebecca Gasior Altman, Rachel Morello-Frosch, Julia Green Brody, Ruthann Rudel, Phil Brown, and Mara Averick. Journal of Health and Social Behavior 49 (4): 417-35. “A New Spin on Research Translation: The Boston Consensus Conference on Human Biomonitoring.” Jessica W. Nelson, Madeleine Kangsen Scammell, Rebecca Gasior Altman, Thomas F. Webster, and David Ozonoff. 2009. Environmental Health Perspectives 117(4): 495-499. “Toxic Ignorance and the Right-to-Know: Ethical and Scientific Challenges of Reporting Data in Biomonitoring Research.” Rachel Morello-Frosch, Julia Green Brody, Margaret Frye, Phil Brown, Rebecca Gasior Altman, Ruthann A. Rudel, and Carla Perez. 2009. Environmental Health 8(6). “Improving Disclosure and Consent: Is it Safe? The New Ethics for Reporting Personal Environmental and Biological Exposures to Study Participants.” Julia Green Brody, Phil Brown, Ruthann A. Rudel, Rachel Morello-Frosch, Rebecca Gasior Altman, Margaret Frye, Cheryl C. Osimo, Carla Perez, and Liesel Seryak. 2007. The American Journal of Public Health 97 (9): 1547-1554.