by Phil Brown

About Phil Brown

Phil Brown is University Distinguished Professor of Sociology and Health Sciences and Director of the Social Science Environmental Health Research Institute at Northeastern University. He is the author of No Safe Place: Toxic Waste, Leukemia, and Community Action and Toxic Exposures: Contested Illnesses and the Environmental Health Movement, and coeditor of Social Movements in Health and Contested Illnesses: Citizens, Science, and Health Social Movements. He studies biomonitoring and household exposure, social policy concerning flame retardants, reporting back data to participants, and health social movements.


Environmental health is increasingly a topic of international sociological research. Although the environment and human health are inextricably connected, the social and environmental contributors to population health, disease, and wellness are too often ignored in the social and medical sciences in favor of a more individualized focus on behaviors and illnesses. This represents a shift from previous modes of inquiry that emphasized environmental links to public health. As early as the nineteenth century, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels connected population health with harsh labor conditions, unfettered industrialization, and capitalist oppression. In the United States in the early twentieth century, urban public health practitioners and activists highlighted the health problems associated with urban environmental conditions and chemical exposure (Gottlieb 1993).