Cancer, Carcinogens and Dispersal: A Disciplinary Dysfunction

David A. Bella
Taraneh Tabesh

DOI: 10.2190/KDRP-D40E-FLP9-X59L


This article compares the paradigms (shared goals, objectives, methods, and assumptions) of toxicology and environmental engineering. With respect to carcinogens, the different paradigms appear to be inconsistent with each other. Environmental engineers implicitly assume nonlinear (threshold) dose-response relationships while toxicologists tend to employ a linear dose-response relationship for carcinogens in the low-dose range. This difference becomes significant when one considers the dispersal of carcinogens to reduce maximum concentrations. Environmental engineers tend to assume that dispersal is desirable though the assumption is often implicit. Toxicologists, in general, do not examine dispersal but much of their work suggests that dispersal is not desirable. The experimental and theoretical research of both disciplines as traditionally practiced is not likely to resolve this inconsistency. An experimental approach is outlined that could address these inconsistencies.

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